When now-former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to bring attention to injustice, he may have lost his career simply by speaking out.
We’ve seen this happen before: Muhammad Ali gave up almost four of his prime fighting years to stand against the Vietnam War, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos were both suspended from the U.S. track team after giving a Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. Most recently, Jemele Hill was suspended for two weeks from her ESPN show for her political statements on Twitter.
But there are other black sports figures whose political acts remain largely unknown. The above video tells the story of three rarely discussed athlete-activists who also paid the price for standing up to injustice: Curt Flood, Craig Hodges and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
Flood, a St. Louis outfielder who was being traded against his will, sued Major League Baseball to become a free agent; even though he lost the suit, he paved the way for the modern-day free agency we see in professional sports today.
While on a team visit to Washington, D.C., Hodges, a Chicago Bulls guard, gave then-President George H.W. Bush a handwritten letter about the mistreatment of minorities and the disenfranchised in the United States. Hodges would also openly criticize his Chicago Bulls teammates, including Michael Jordan, for not using their voices to speak out against systemic oppression.
Abdul-Rauf, then with the Denver Nuggets, refused to stand for the national anthem, over 20 years before Kaepernick, because he viewed it a “sign of tyranny and oppression.”
Check out the video above.