Notable Protests in Sports History

Recapping Memorable Moments when Athletes Took Political Stances

LeBron James From 2014
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Colin Kaepernick may not be on an NFL team to start the regular season, but the free agent quarterback remains front and center in conversations surrounding the league. Players have continued to follow Kaepernick’s lead by kneeling and holding other demonstrations during the playing of the national anthem. NFL sponsor Nike also debuted its new “Just Do It” ad featuring Kaepernick during the league’s opening night matchup between the Eagles and Falcons.

The impact of Kaepernick’s advocacy is profound. But he’s not the first sports figure to take a major political stance. Here is a list of other notable protests by athletes.


Bill Russell From NBA History Twitter

1961 Boston Celtics

11-time NBA champion Bill Russell was among a group of black players on the Boston Celtics who boycotted an exhibition game in Kentucky. Russell, along with fellow hall of famers K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, and Tom Sanders opted to sit out the game when they were refused service at a Lexington restaurant earlier in the day.

Russell is now celebrated as trailblazer for black athletes and one of the most vocal sports advocates for civil rights.   

“The basic problem in Negro America is the destruction of race pride,” Russell said in the 1960s. “One could say we have been victims of psychological warfare, in a sense, in that this is a white country, and all the emphasis is on being white.”


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