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It was always a choice : picking up the baton of athlete activism

Call Number

  • 796.092 S8141 (CEN)

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Publication Information

Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 2022.

Physical Description

x, 205 pages ; 22 cm


"This book contextualizes the latest rise in athlete activism against racial inequality by surveying the history of protest in American sports. Steele reveals that the platform sports stardom affords has always come with the responsibility to speak out against injustice even if not all athletes have answered that call"--

"The recent flashpoint of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee renews a long tradition of athlete-activists speaking out against racism, injustice, and oppression. Like Kaepernick, Jackie Robinson, Paul Robeson, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos--among many others, of all races, male and female, pro and amateur--all made the choice to take a side to command public awareness and attention rather than "shut up and play," as O. J. Simpson, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods did. Using their celebrity to demand change, these activists inspired fans but faced great personal and professional risks in doing so. It Was Always a Choice traces the history and impact of these decisive moments throughout the history of U.S. sports. David Steele identifies the resonances and antecedents throughout the twentieth century of the choices faced by athletes in the post-Kaepernick era, including the advance of athletes' political organizing in the era of activism following the death of George Floyd. He shows which athletes chose silence instead of action--"dropping the baton," as it were--in the movement to end racial inequities and violence against Black Americans. The examples of courageous athletes multiply as LeBron James, Megan Rapinoe and the activist-athletes of the NBA, WNBA, and NFL remain committed to fighting daily and vibrantly for social change"--


  • The choice: use your platform, or don't
  • Colin Kaepernick and his spiritual predecessors
  • Your presence is an act of protest: Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson
  • Star-spangled resistance: from Rose Robinson to the Bubble
  • Justice league: the WNBA takes the lead
  • Peter Norman, Chris Long, and Gregg Popovich: white allies
  • Mexico City before, during, and after the silent gesture
  • Ali, the OPHR, the Black Fourteen, and the Milwaukee Bucks: protesting with your feet
  • How O.J., Michael, and Tiger dropped the baton
  • Stick to sports and enjoy your White House trip
  • 8 minutes 46 seconds*
  • The road from pariah to icon.

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