These athletes made tremendous sacrifices protesting for causes they believed in.
In 1967, Muhammed Ali was stripped of his boxing titles and sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. Though he escaped prison time by appealing his case, he was not allowed to fight for three years.
After winning gold and bronze in the 200 Meter at the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave a black power salute during the National Anthem. The two were protesting racial inequality in the states and the gesture got them suspended by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Both athletes received death threats when they returned home.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was suspended at the NBA in 1996 for refusing to stand for the anthem before games, as a protest of U.S. foreign policy. He called the American flag a “symbol of oppression,” and, in addition to a suspension, the NBA fined home more than $30,000.
Despite their sacrifices, these athletes paved the way for a new generation of athletes to speak out, similarly to how NFL players who are protesting in the present day. Though they may be facing opposition, they join a long history of athletes speaking out for what they believe in.