ABOUT THIS BOOK
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.