23 Times Athletes Stood Up For What They Believed In

"I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs." — Muhammad Ali

1936 — Jesse Owens stands up against tyranny at the Summer Olympics in Berlin.

/ AP

Olympic broad jump medalists salute during the medals ceremony on Aug. 11, 1936, at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. Jesse Owens took home the gold medal over silver medalist Lutz Long of Germany, who along with other German officials gave the Nazi salute during the ceremony.

1960 — The Taiwanese team protests its statehood at the Summer Olympics in Rome.

Douglas Miller / Getty Images

On Aug. 25, 1960, the Olympic team from Formosa, now Taiwan, marched in protest during the opening ceremony after they were forced by the International Olympic Committee to change their country's name.

1967 — Muhammad Ali refused the military draft in protest of the war in Vietnam.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali accepts a token gift of flowers from one of an estimated 12,500 persons who marched to San Francisco City Hall to end a weeklong draft protest on April 27, 1968.

1968 — Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise a Black Power salute at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City.


Extending gloved hands skyward, US athletes Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) stare downward during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200-meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City on Oct. 16, 1968.

1969 — The University of Wyoming's "Black 14" are dismissed for protesting racial discrimination by the church.

Barry Staver / Getty Images

Several helmeted Colorado State University police officers try to break up a scuffle over the dismissal of 14 black athletes at the University of Wyoming on Nov. 2, 1969. The players were removed from the team after wearing black armbands in protest of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints policy of denying priesthood to black men.

1970 — The “Syracuse 8” quit the team in protest over racial injustice.

Kevin Rivoli / AP

In 1970, nine black Syracuse University football players became rebellious outcasts when they quit the team to protest racial injustices and their unequal treatment. In this picture, shot 36 years later, the university is officially recognizing the nine former players for their courageous stand against discrimination. From left to right: Art Monk, Ron Womack, Duane Walker, Alif Muhammad, Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Clarence McGill, Dana Harrell, John Lobon, Greg Allen, and Richard Bulls.

1980 — The United States boycotts the Summer Olympics in Moscow over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.


Chuck Maslim of Parryman, Maryland, waves a large American flag from the stands of Lenin Stadium during closing ceremonies of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympic Games in Moscow on Aug. 3, 1980. The United States boycotted the Moscow games to protest Soviet intervention in Afghanistan.

1996 — Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf recites an Islamic prayer during the national anthem in protest of US oppression.

M. Spencer Green / AP

In this March 15, 1996, photo, Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stands with his teammates and prays during the national anthem before an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Chicago. This was Abdul-Rauf's first game back since he was suspended by the NBA on March 12, 1996, for refusing to participate in the national anthem pregame ceremony.

2003 — Toni Smith turns her back during the national anthem to protest the Iraq War.

Stuart Ramson / Associated Press

Manhattanville College guard Toni Smith turns her back on the US flag while the national anthem is performed before a basketball game between the Manhattanville Valiants and Stevens Tech from New Jersey, in Purchase, New York, on Feb. 23, 2003.

2005 — Carlos Delgado remains in the dugout during the national anthem to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

John Grieshop / Getty Images

Carlos Delgado of the Florida Marlins sits in the dugout during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 30, 2005, in Pittsburgh.

2010 — Greek Paralympic medalists protest the loss of funding for sports involving people with special needs.

Petros Giannakouris / Associated Press

Greek athletes with special needs, including former Paralympic medalists, protest outside the Culture Ministry in Athens on Nov. 25, 2010. Protesters accused the Socialist government of slashing funding for sports involving people with special needs, and claim former Paralympic athletes are still owed bonuses for past achievements.

2010 — Phoenix Suns wear "Los Suns" jerseys in protest of Arizona's immigration laws.


The team's altered jersey was designed to take a stand against Arizona's new SB 1070 law, which allowed police to question and detain people based on whether or not they were suspected of being undocumented immigrants. Suns managing partner Robert Sarver said in a statement, "Our players and organization felt that wearing our 'Los Suns' jerseys on Cinco de Mayo was a way for our team and our organization to honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the State of Arizona, and our nation."

2013 — AC Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng takes on racism.

Antonio Calanni / AP

AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng sports a jersey reading "AC Milan against racism" prior to the start of the match between AC Milan and Siena in Milan on Jan. 6, 2013. A friendly match between AC Milan and lower-division club Pro Patria was abandoned the week before after racist chants directed at Milan's black players.

2014 — Los Angeles Clippers players wear their warm-up jerseys inside out to protest racial remarks by team owner Donald Sterling.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Los Angeles Clippers before game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on April 27, 2014, in Oakland, California.

2014 — The St. Louis Rams go "hands up" for Ferguson, Missouri.

L.g. Patterson / AP

Members of the St. Louis Rams raise their arms acknowledging the shooting of Michael Brown and the protests that followed in Ferguson, Missouri, before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 30, 2014, in St. Louis.

2014 — Members of the NBA don "I Can't Breathe" shirts to protest the death of Eric Garner.

Noel Vasquez / GC Images

Kobe Bryant wears an "I Can't Breathe" T-shirt to protest the death of Eric Garner at a basketball game between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Dec. 9, 2014, in Los Angeles.

2015 — The University of Missouri football team boycotts the season to protest campus racism.

Jeff Roberson / AP

In this Nov. 9, 2015, photo, a member of the black student protest group Concerned Student 1950 raises a fist while addressing a crowd following the announcement that Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri system, would resign. Few paid attention when a black student started a hunger strike at the University of Missouri to protest racial strife on campus, but as soon as the football team supported that strike by refusing to practice or play in the school’s lucrative NCAA games, the university’s president and chancellor were forced out and changes were discussed.

2016 — Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa crosses his arms at the Rio Olympics against his government's crackdown on political dissent.

Olivier Morin / AFP / Getty Images

Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa crosses the finish line of the men's marathon event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 21, 2016.

2016 — Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the US.

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 12, 2016, in Santa Clara, California.

2017 — The Seattle Storm stands with Planned Parenthood.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Seattle Storm fans and others cheer at a rally in support of Planned Parenthood before a WNBA basketball game between the Storm and the Chicago Sky on July 18 in Seattle. The Storm also pledged to Planned Parenthood $5 from each game ticket sold.

2017 — Brittney Griner and Layshia Clarendon stand up for transgender rights.

Matt York / AP

In this April 20, 2013, Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner speaks during a news conference after penning an op-ed piece with Atlanta Dream's Layshia Claredon against Texas Senate Bill 3, which they believe is discriminatory against transgender athletes.

2017 — Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics is the first MLB player to take a knee during the national anthem.

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics kneels in protest during the singing of the national anthem prior to the start of the game against the Texas Rangers on Sept. 24 in Oakland, California.

2017 — Members of the NFL unite against President Trump's statements on kneeling during the national anthem.

Matt York / AP

The Dallas Cowboys, led by owner Jerry Jones (center), take a knee while the national anthem is performed prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 25 in Glendale, Arizona.