Guest Editors’ Introduction to JLAS Special Issue on Athlete Activism and Sports Social Responsibility
When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem prior to National Football League (NFL) games during the 2016 season, he quickly became a symbol of a renewed era of athlete activism, triggering collegiate and professional athlete activists across the country to join demonstrations and sparking national conversations about racism and police brutality. But athlete activism is much broader, extending to philanthropic work such as NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s efforts to spread mental health awareness and National Basketball Association superstar LeBron James’s funding of college scholarships for inner-city youth. Professional athletes’ willingness to take public stands on political and social issues is reflected and reinforced by sports entities’ social responsibility initiatives. For example, the NCAA relocated men’s basketball championship games out of North Carolina in response to a state law that curbed anti-discrimination protections for transgender people. Most sports leagues and governing bodies regularly participate in socially responsible causes.