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During the NFL’s day-off every Tuesday, the Players Coalition are using their platform as professional athletes to speak in town halls, statehouses and Washington, D.C., meet with leaders, and advocate for change by pushing racial inequality reform in the spotlight. In an interview between Sports Illustrated writers, Kalyn Kahler and Jenny Vrentas, and leaders of the coalition that’s about 40 players strong, work to respond to systematic racism built on over two centuries of injustice: from slavery to segregation, then lynchings to police brutality, and to the present mass incarceration of people of color. Interviewees Malcom Jenkins and Anquan Boldin state that their issues include bettering sentencing guidelines, stopping mandatory minimum sentences, establishing clean slate laws, dropping cash bails, reforming juvenile justice, and eliminating racial bias in police departments. Sports Illustrated’s Scooby Axson reports that the NFL agreed to give $89 million for these causes.
The influence of athletic players to give social reform a win does not get a happy ending though. Colin Kaepernick, first NFL player to stay seated during the nation anthem about a year ago, has been unemployed since then. Another unemployment story surrounds track runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos after their demonstration in the 1968 Olympics. In the history of politics entering the sports arena, we see that trying to bring change always make spectators uncomfortable. But stories behind more successful athletics like Magic Johnson in his pushback on HIV/AIDS stigma and Venus Williams’ lobbying for equal pay show that politics’ effect on sports, if not effective, is at least loud. The line of athletes in the last decades who protest and work to bring change to oppressed communities show that sports’ imminent involvement in politics leaves an impact on sports itself. As Dave Zirin States in his book, A People’s History of Sports in the United States, there is a “political heart that beats in the sports world” (xii).

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