When Sport Stars Take A Stand

We take a look back at some of the most iconic protests by sportspeople the world has seen.

There is a belief among sports fans that sports and politics should not meet -- sportspeople should stick to what they know and not get involved in politics.

Nike has hit the headlines this week, after releasing a campaign fronted by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Social media has been flooded with posts of people burning their Nike merchandise in protest of the campaign.

Kaepernick became a leading voice in the fight for racial equality in the U.S. by taking a knee during the national anthem.

READ MORE: People Are Destroying Their Nikes Over Colin Kaepernick Campaign

READ MORE: NFL To Fine Teams If Players On Field Refuse To Stand For National Anthem

Peter Norman

It's one of the most powerful images sport has ever seen -- U.S. athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the 'Black Power salute' while on the podium at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games -- but beside them stood a long-forgotten Australian.

Peter Norman, who told the Americans "I'll stand by you" as they collected their medals, stood with them in support of their political gesture. Norman didn't make the salute, but instead wore an an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge.

Image: Wikicommons

But it was an act that would effectively end Norman's career. At a time when Australia was still in the throes of the White Australia Policy and Indigenous children were being forcibly removed from their families, Norman was slammed for his support of the gesture.

On that day, Norman ran the Australian record for the 200 metre sprint -- it still stands today. He was not included in the 1972 Munich Olympic team despite repeatedly meeting qualification times, and he was not formally recognised at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The three sprinters remained closed friends until Norman's death in 2006, where Carlos and Smith were pallbearers at his funeral.  In 2012, the Australian Parliament finally made an apology to Norman for his treatment.

Adam Goodes

Adam Goodes' glittering AFL career was marred by horrific racism and booing. But the former Australian of the Year continued to show his pride in his Indigenous heritage by performing a traditional war dance to celebrate his goals as protest.

In the words of Sydney Swans Chairman Andrew Pridham: "If you're booing Adam Goodes, I've got bad news for you. You're a racist."

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Billy Murdoch

It may be one of the first protests held by a sportsperson. In 1884, Australian cricket captain Billy Murdoch led a player protest for better pay.

Demanding 50 percent of the gate takings during an Ashes series against England, Murdoch and his team boycotted the second match in Melbourne after their request was denied.

Murdoch didn't play for Australia again for another two years, before eventually switching his allegiance to England.

FC Barcelona

The iconic football club has always been a bastion of Catalan pride.

During the oppressive Franco regime, the club's stadium, Camp Nou, was one of the only places Catalan's could speak their native language without being persecuted. Today, media communications by the club are always written in Spanish and Catalan, and during matches, at the 17th minute and 14th second of each half (Catalonia lost the War of Succession against Spain in 1714) sections of the crowd chants "Indepencia" and wave separatist Estelada flags.

In the season of 2013/2014, Barcelona wore an away kit emblazoned with the red and white stripes of the flag of Catalonia -- the Senyera -- to mark the 300th anniversary of the fall of Catalonia.

Image: Getty Images
Miami Heat

After the shooting death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman in 2012, NBA team Miami Heat took a stand.

The U.S. basketball team, lead by LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, were hit particularly hard by the racially-motivated killing -- the shooting occurred just kilometres from their stadium during a match.

The players posted photos of themselves wearing hoodies, just like Martin had been when he was shot, captioned with the powerful hashtags #WeAreTrayvonMartin and #WeWantJustice.

The club backed the move, with a heartfelt statement offering condolences to the Martin family.

"We support our players and join them in hoping that their images and our logo can be part of the national dialogue and can help in our nation's healing," it said.

Los Angeles Clippers

Rather than boycotting their play-off match against the Golden State Warriors, the players conducted a silent protest against the club's racist owner, Donald Sterling.

Sterling was caught on tape asking his half-black, half-Latina girlfriend why she was in Instagram photos with African-Americans.

The Clippers players protested the comments by wearing their warm-up shirts inside out whilst sitting on the bench, refusing to show the team badge.

Image: Getty Images
Muhammad Ali

Heavy-weight boxing champion Muhammad Ali was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, and refused his induction into the U.S. military after being drafted in 1966.

He was sentenced to five years jail for draft evasion in 1967, and stripped of his boxing titles. He appealed the conviction and won in 1971.

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?" Ali said of his refusal to go to war.

Image: Getty Images
Dani Alves

Brazilian footballer Dani Alves inadvertently started a social media campaign eating back at racism.

During a La Liga match against Villarreal, the then-Barcelona player was getting set to take a corner kick, when a banana flew in front of him thrown by an opposing fan. The banana was in reference to Alves' heritage.

Without missing a beat, Alves nonchalantly picked up the banana, took a bite and took the kick.

In support of his teammate, Neymar Jr took to social media posting a photo of himself holding a banana, captioned with the hashtag #WeAreAllMonkeys. The movement was continued by fellow footballers and sports reporters in the fight against entrenched racism in the game.

Contact the author at jdunne@networkten.com.au

Featured Image: Getty Images