This study focuses on athletes using their platform to engage in activism. It specifically covers Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos, and their influence on Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest. While there have been many athletes that have used their sport to try to create change in society, I chose to focus on these athletes because of how well known they were, and how they took a risk by being activists. I also chose these athletes because they share the similarity that they were vilified by the public and media at first, but eventually they were all seen as heroes and even celebrated for their activism.

In each chapter, I cover each athlete’s life, including their childhood, athletic careers, their activism, and the effect their activism had on their professional and personal life. I researched each athlete’s childhood to see how it influenced and shaped them. They all were aware of and faced racism while growing up, and I argue that this is one of the reasons why they became involved in human rights issues as adults.

In this study, I argue that the efforts of athletes like Robinson, Ali, Smith, and Carlos influenced athletes today, specifically Kaepernick to engage in activism. This is proven by several sources I used, including newspaper articles, interviews, and journal articles. I also argue that based on history, even though Kaepernick is viewed negatively by many people in America at this time, he will most likely be celebrated in the future, just like Robinson, Ali, Smith, and Carlos were.


Pozefsky, Peter



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2019 Brian Lief