Professional Sports Leagues Fight for Social Justice


NBA players kneel during the National Anthem.

Anesh Solanki, Web Manager


     In 2016, the San Francisco 49ers star quarterback, Colin Kaepernick made a decision to kneel during the National Anthem before games. He made this decision due to the recurring police brutality against the black community. This decision resulted in more players kneeling and protesting throughout the year. After that season, he has not played an NFL game since.

     Today, we have seen the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, etc. This has impacted all aspects of the world, spiking protests all throughout America. However, the athletes of the sports world have not been able to express their opinions due to the hiatus among all sports leagues because of the pandemic.

    Now, sports leagues such as the NBA and NFL have resumed play without fans. The NBA plays in “the Bubble,” which is in the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The NFL teams are playing in regular stadiums without fans. Both respective leagues have done their part in expressing their beliefs about police brutality towards African Americans. 

     In “the Bubble,” NBA teams have spread numerous messages. For example, the Toronto Raptors arrived at the NBA campus with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” along the side of their bus. Teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic have worn warm up shirts. Also, teams have turned their arenas into voting centers.

     The NBA in general has also spread messages to the community regarding social justice. On all of the courts, the words “Black Lives Matter” are printed at the half court line. Also, the NBA has allowed its players to wear social justice messages on the back of their jerseys. Some of these messages include “Say Her Name” or “Justice Now.” 

     In a postgame interview by the NBA on TNT,  Los Angeles Lakers’ Forward LeBron James emotionally said, “We want justice, no matter how long it takes.”

     NBA players also made the decision to boycott the NBA Playoffs due to the shooting of Jacob Blake. Although the NBA players considered cancelling the season, the boycott ended a week later, and players continued to spread awareness of police brutality against the African American community.

     The NFL has done similar things to convey their message regarding social justice. The NFL decided to allow teams to put social justice messages in the turf in the end zone. These messages are phrases such as “END RACISM” and “IT TAKES ALL OF US.” Also, the NFL has allowed social messages or victims’ names to be put on players’ helmets. Some of these messages include “Black Lives Matter” and “George Floyd.”

     According to the NFL Operations website, “The NFL family is coming together to address systemic issues across the country.” 

     The Baltimore Ravens have donated $1 million to assist their community in making social justice reforms. Also, Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions’ Quarterback, has funded a social justice program at his alma mater for Georgia athletes.

     Overall, the NBA and NFL continue to use their platform to spread messages regarding the social issues in the world. Although these messages are constantly spread throughout society, the influence of star athletes will create a bigger impact by spreading the message with their own words.