MEXICO CITY (AP) — By the time they reached Mexico City in October 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos were representing a country being torn apart.
The Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, riots outside the Democratic convention in Chicago and growing unrest over centuries of discrimination against African-Americans made 1968 one of the most turbulent years in American history.
Two men stood together, utilizing the worldwide platform that only the Olympics can provide, to call attention to the struggle they shared with fellow Americans during a divisive, seemingly intractable period in their country's history.
In 1968, sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists on the medals stand.
Moments after Serena Williams won her seventh Wimbledon title, she proudly raised her fist in a black power salute.
By the 1980s, America finally publicly embraced the black athlete, looking past skin color to see athleticism and skill, rewarding stars with multimillion-dollar athletic contracts, movie deals, lucrative shoe endorsements and mansions in all-white enclaves.
When LeBron James stepped on the court wearing mismatched sneakers in the nation's capital, it wasn't a fashion statement by the NBA's most popular athlete. The message was clearly emblazed in gold on the back of his kicks, one white and one black: Equality.
Muhammad Ali knew he didn't have much time left. His career was at stake — but more importantly, so was his freedom — as he awaited the day he would formally refuse to be inducted in the armed forces of the United States.
So he embarked on a grand tour to make some money before his fighting days came to an end.
In Jim Crow America, it's no wonder that Jack Johnson was the most despised African-American of his generation.
The first black boxing heavyweight champion of the world, Johnson humiliated white fighters and flaunted his affection for white women, even fleeing the country after an all-white jury convicted him of "immorality" for one of his relationships.
Colin Kaepernick's first two "protests" drew scant attention. He sat on the bench, out of uniform, virtually unnoticed. His third got some buzz after a reporter tweeted a picture of the 49ers bench that had nothing to do with the quarterback but caught him in the frame, sitting during the national anthem.
This year's NFL season featured two of America's pastimes: football and race, with pre-game protests dividing fans along color lines and making Sunday afternoons among the most segregated hours in the country.
While some fans would prefer players stick to sports, many black athletes have chosen a different path by protesting, making people uncomfortable.
A son who saw a police officer hold a gun to his father's head. A husband whose wife was pulled over driving a Bentley.
These unsettling scenes are among the stories from some of the NFL's marquee players, multimillionaires sharing tales of racial profiling by law enforcement. It is a troubling concern for people of color that has been at the center of the protests begun in August 2016 by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Black Athletes Have Long History of Speaking Out
NEW YORK (AP) — Beyonce presented Colin Kaepernick with Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award on Tuesday night, and Kaepernick promised that "with or without the NFL's platform, I will continue to work for the people."
Beyonce was brought out as a surprise presenter by comedian Trevor Noah. She said she was "proud and humbled" to present the award.