Players across the National Football League are taking a knee for pre-game national anthems — a widespread protest sparked by President Donald Trump’s combative comments that NFL owners should “fire” players who kneel during the national anthem. The athlete's foray into politics is a reminder of the 1960s — a tumultuous time in American race relations — according to a Cornell University scholar.

Riché Richardson is an associate professor of African American literature in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University. She says today, like 50 years ago, athletes can impact political and social change.


Richardson says:

“In the coming months, we will be in a place and time 50 years beyond 1968, the year during which so many events happened that impact our lives and our world now, including 50 years beyond the assassination of Dr. King.  We will be years beyond the historic black power salute of John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

“The powerful and peaceful resistance that Colin Kaepernnick built within the NFL through protesting police violence by refusing to stand during the singing of the national anthem nationalized the resurgence of black student movement catalyzed by football players at the University of Missouri in 2015 in which athletes courageously stood at the forefront, and has now helped to spark a wave of resistance at the national level in athletes in both the NFL and NBA.

“What we are seeing underscores linkages between the 1960s and now, suggests the impact that the voices of athletes can make in the struggle to bring about political and social change, as well as the importance of standing and working in solidarity.”

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