Sport has a long history of being a powerful voice in fighting racism and other social issues – Daily Mail

  • Liverpool’s players taking a knee at Anfield on Monday made for an incredibly powerful image 
  • It was in response to the killing of George Floyd, which has since sparked worldwide protests 
  • It is an image that stands beside many others where sport and social issues have collided  

Liverpool taking a knee in the middle of the pitch at Anfield on Monday in solidarity with protests against the death of George Floyd was yet another reminder of how sport – and the actions of those in it – can send a powerful message.

Floyd’s killing has sparked protests across the globe and the sporting world has also rallied against social and political injustice. 


And it is by no means the first time that sport has found its voice. From Jesse Owens winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 in Nazi Germany to Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the US national anthem as a statement against racial oppression in 2016, sport has a long history of making itself heard.

Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at some of the most iconic sporting protest images of all time.

The Liverpool squad stopped training to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd’s death Liverpool’s squad took a knee midway through their first training session back at Anfield ahead of the Premier League’s return Chelsea players took the knee in an H formation – the H standing for ‘human’ – during training on Tuesday Derek Chauvin (pictured) has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter over Floyd’s death Black American Jesse Owens sent shockwaves through the sporting and political world when he won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics in Nazi Germany in 1936. Owens won the men’s 100m, 200m, long jump and was part of the winning USA 4x100m relay team Owens’ success struck at the heart of Adolf Hitler’s ideology of Aryan physical supremacy. Owens is pictured here standing on top of the podium after winning the men’s long jump next to German athlete Luz Long, who won the bronze medal and is here performing a Nazi salute. Japan’s Naoto Tajima won the silver medal. American track and field athletes Tommie Smith (centre) and John Carlos (right), who finished first and third in the 200m at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, protest by raising a black-gloved fist during the US national anthem – the Star Spangled Banner. The picture, taken by John Dominis, captured one of the most powerful political statements in the history of the Olympics. Smith said in an interview: ‘If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.’ San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (centre) was joined by Eli Harold (left) and Eric Reid in not standing during the US national anthem. Kaepernick wanted to raise awareness about inequality and racist police brutality. He said by taking a knee he was standing up ‘for people that are oppressed’. In 2012, LeBron James tweeted a picture of the Miami Heat team wearing hoodies, with their heads bowed in support of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old American whose killing was a national news story. Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was killed by a neighbourhood watch volunteer who perceived him as a threat. James later said: ‘It was very emotional, an emotional day for all of us. Taking that picture, we’re happy that we’re able to shed light on the situation that we feel is unjust.’ When at Cleveland Cavaliers, James wore a t-short to honour Eric Garner, who died after an NYPD officer placed him in a chokehold during an altercation in 2014. ‘I can’t breathe,’ were Garner’s final words. Similar to the death of Floyd, Garner’s killing sparked protests and highlighted the actions of the police. Taiwan staged a protest during the opening ceremony of the 1960 Olympics in Italy over its team name. Taiwan was forced to use the Western name ‘Formosa’. In the opening ceremony of the Games, in which Taiwan also won its first ever Olympic medal, 27 competitors – 24 men and three women – marched behind a sign which read: ‘Under protest.’ American marathon runner Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967. However, during her run, Switzer was assaulted several times by race manager Jock Semple, who tried to snatch her race number in an attempt to stop her running. Semple was eventually shoved to the ground by Switzer’s boyfriend. As a result of her run, women were banned from competing in races with men and it wasn’t until 1972 that the Boston Marathon introduced its own women’s race. During the Merseyside derby in 1988, John Barnes was the target of racist abuse. When a banana was thrown towards him from the stands at Everton’s Goodison Park ground, Liverpool and England midfielder Barnes backheeled it off the pitch. When Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia crossed the finish line in second after the men’s marathon at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, he did so with his arms crossed above his head. It was a gesture of solidarity with the Oromo protests that had taken place since November the previous year. ‘The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all the protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe,’ Lilesa said. Muhammad Ali (right) points to a newspaper which showed he was not the only American protesting over the war in Vietnam. In 1966, Ali refused to enter the US military after he was made eligible to join. It led to his arrest and conviction, which was eventually in June 1971 overturned by the US Supreme Court. Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball when he signed for Montreal Royals on October 24, 1945. Robinson’s move helped to break the colour lines in American sport. In 1997, 25 years after his death, the MLB retired the No 42 jersey and April 15 (in baseball) is now known as Jackie Robinson day.

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