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This year’s NFL season featured two of America’s pastimes: football and race Alex Colome Seattle Mariners Jersey , with pre-game protests dividing fans along color lines and making Sunday afternoons among the most segregated hours in the country.

While some fans would prefer players stick to sports, many black athletes have chosen a different path by protesting, making people uncomfortable.

”The whole purpose of the demonstrations is to get (fans’) attention,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said in an interview with The Associated Press. ”These are the people that ignore the fact that people are being shot dead in the street. They’ve found ways to ignore it.”

For weeks, some NFL players, most of them African-American, knelt silently on the sidelines as the national anthem played before kickoff. Their goal: to raise awareness about disparities in policing in communities of color , and about persistent, systemic racism in America.

It was a new approach to an age-old problem.

For generations, black athletes from heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson to tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick have protested in ways large and small to highlight injustice, galvanize support and move the country forward. Often met with backlash from fans uninterested in mixing sports and social issues, many have taken stances that have cost them their careers.

The roots of black athlete activism can be traced to the dawn of black freedom. Even after slavery ended, black Americans were barred from full participation in the public sphere: denied the right to vote, access to mass media, or equal housing and schools.

Because they were blocked from entry in most civic institutions for much of the 20th century, black people found public visibility and expression in other arenas – often cultural ones, like music and sports.

Johnson fought – and beat – white boxers at the height of Jim Crow, when blacks were presumed to be inferior Joe Montana 49ers Jersey , and dated white women, upending the social norms of the day.

When he finally lost, it would be a generation before another black boxer would be allowed to compete at such a level, and the message had been sent to black athletes that disrupting society came with consequences.

”It’s because of what happens to him that others know they have to toe the line,” said New York University historian Jeffrey Sammons. ”They can’t be seen as defiant or opponents of the system . They know they can’t succeed without living up to expectations and being humble, unassuming and supportive of the established order.”

Then came along Muhammad Ali, who was not one to toe the line.

Ali was the most visible and influential athlete of his generation when he protested the Vietnam War as racially unjust by refusing to be drafted in 1967, a move that cost him his livelihood, derailing his fighting career for years.

Ali’s actions influenced others. Basketball player Abdul-Jabbar boycotted the 1968 Summer Olympics. At the same games, held in Mexico City, American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos held raised fists covered in black leather gloves as the national anthem played after winning gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter race.

Abdul-Jabbar, who at 70 represents a bridge between Ali and Kaepernick, went on to a storied NBA career, but Smith and Carlos returned home to the threat of having their medals taken, and faced difficulty finding coaching jobs.

”It was an international stage that was being used to promote how unified and wonderful the world is, but black Americans at that point were still in a very tough struggle to obtain their rights, both human and political,” Abdul-Jabbar said of the 1968 games. ”The fact that (Smith and Carlos) used an international platform to speak for people who usually don’t have any power to be heard made it all the more significant.”

Carlos said Mexico City was the only place he could’ve made such a statement.

”At that time Youth Breeland Speaks Jersey , for me, there was no other vehicle than the Olympic Games,” he recalled. ”I felt like the humanitarian issues at that time, as well as the humanitarian issues of today, are more compelling to me than an Olympic medal. I love the Olympics and I love sports, but I love a just cause for humanity even greater.”

It is a sentiment shared by NFL players.

The killing of mostly unarmed black men by mostly white police officers sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, which has again drawn black athletes into the national conversation on race . The sideline protests in the NFL – started in August 2016 by Kaepernick – have been the most prominent display of players’ engagement, though black athletes in baseball and basketball have also had smaller displays of activism.

Because sports are such a prominent aspect of American life, they remain an effective way to bring attention to issues of racial injustice.

”This is our inheritance,” said Howard Bryant, senior writer at ESPN and author of the forthcoming book ”The Heritage: Black Athletes, A Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism.”

”You’re not allowed to check out,” Bryant said. ”This is going to continue until the United States respects the black brain more than the black body. Then sports can go back to what it was supposed to be – just a game.”

Media – and social media in particular – has helped in recruiting athletes to the cause, explained Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson, whose online civil rights organization has joined with athletes in addressing sy Randy Moss on one side, Terrell Owens on the other. Isaac Bruce in the slot.

A defensive coordinator’s dilemma.

On Saturday, the 48 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame face a similar complexity. Is Moss Daniel Castro Colorado Rockies Jersey , in his first year of eligibility for the Canton, Ohio, shrine, worthy of induction? And what about T.O., in his third year on the ballot? Or Bruce, in his fourth year.

How about all of them?

The two dynamic and sometimes controversial wide receivers and the always-reliable and often spectacular Bruce are among 15 modern-era candidates. From that group, no more than five will be selected.

Also being considered are first-year eligibles linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and guard Steve Hutchinson. Other finalists are running back Edgerrin James; center Kevin Mawae; safeties John Lynch and Brian Dawkins; guard Alan Faneca; tackles Joe Jacoby and Tony Boselli; and cornerbacks Ty Law and Everson Walls.

The senior nominees are linebacker Robert Brazile and guard Jerry Kramer. In the contributor’s committee it is Bobby Beathard.

Much of the attention will be paid to the guys who caught the ball extremely well. Moss and Owens made the Team of the Decade for the 2000s. Bruce’s TD reception won the 2000 Super Bowl for the Rams against the Titans.

Owens has been a lightning rod because despite impressive career numbers, he’s failed twice to get the necessary 80 percent for induction.

”I think it diminishes the reputation and the credibility the Hall of Fame is really revered for,” Owens says of not being elected for what he believes are ”character” reasons.

”I have kind of just moved on from it. Me not getting in first time – and everybody else said at the same time, I should have been in – and even the second time, I have been in (contention) – I am very fortunate and blessed to have played the game as long as I did considering I thought I would never play beyond the college level.”

Owens played for five teams in 15 pro seasons, having the most success with San Francisco and Dallas, losing a Super Bowl with Philadelphia. Each of his stints in those cities – he also was with Buffalo and Cincinnati – didn’t end well.

”Early in my career when I was an adolescent and teenager, I had self-esteem issues,” he explains. ”I had to get out of that. You have to believe in yourself in order to progress in order to do anything in your life. No matter what, I am not going to look at the Hall of Fame as a platform to kind of validate what I did in my career.”

Nor does Moss, who spent 14 NFL seasons with five clubs Omar Vizquel Jersey , having his best years with Minnesota and New England. He was the 1998 Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Vikings, and in 2007 helped the Patriots go undefeated until they fell to the Giants in the Super Bowl.

Like Owens, Moss also had some run-ins with teammates, opponents, coaches and executives. Whether that affects him as Owens believes it has impacted him for Hall of Fame consideration remains to be seen.

”Going through college and my first couple years in the league, I never looked at the Hall of Fame or at the (gold) jackets,” Moss says. ”I loved and enjoyed the game. As I retired, now on my fifth year and up as a finalist, now is the time I really looked at, `Am I Hall of Fame worthy? Will I get the nod?’

”Through my playing career, the Hall of Fame was not in my equation. I just enjoyed coming to the stadium and being around my teammates and just competing.”

Moss admits there might be some nerves Saturday.

”It’s kind of like you going into court and being in front of a jury, the fate is in their hands,” he says. ”I don’t have a vote.

”What I will do is be around close family and friends and just wait it out. … I guess your overall final accomplishment for playing in the NFL is the gold jacket. Some nervousness will come in.

”I think I am worthy of getting in on the first ballot, but if not, you win some, you lose some. If the Hall of Fame is my final stop, I am definitely honored to be part of it.”

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