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Sports as a Vehicle for Change

Athletes, teams and organizations at all levels can provide an essential influence to improve race relations and inspire social change.

There are many ways they can use their platforms to raise awareness about injustice, advocate for racial equity and encourage others to take steps to bring about change. For many athletes, this social justice work continues after their playing careers. Athletes view themselves as instrumental members of society and are eager to use their influence, expertise and reach to address inequity. Sports equip athletes with the aptitude, passion and dedication to undertake fundamental social change, reaffirming the enduring words of Nelson Mandela.

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way little else does." — Nelson Mandela

NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James spoke out against racial injustice at the 2016 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles and urged their fellow athletes to join them in using their platforms to effect change.
American track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fist to protest social injustice during the medal ceremony for the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Their protest, Smith says, "... was a cry for freedom and for human rights. We had to be seen because we couldn't be heard."

Explore the Road to Progress

See how sports have spurred social change throughout history.

Check out our interactive digital timeline, the RISE Road to Progress, which chronicles the intersection of sports and social justice and the important role athletes have played in advancing equity and civil rights throughout history. These pivotal moments represent just some of the countless examples of athletes helping to move society forward.

Take a short quiz on the Road to Progress to test your knowledge.

Take Quiz

What is the Power of Sport?

We asked athletes and sports leaders to tell us how they've seen sport act as a vehicle for social change, and why they believe the athlete's voice is so powerful in driving progress in our society. Hear their stories and perspective as featured on our podcast and from "A Walk In their Shoes," an element of our Champions of Change fan experience.

Candace Parker

WNBA All-Star

Justin Simmons

NFL Player

Bill Rhoden

The Undefeated

Hear Bill Rhoden's full interview on Champions of Change: The RISE Podcast

Be Part of the Change

Take the RISE Pledge to End Racism

Athletes and other sports leaders have stepped up and pledged to fight racism and discrimination. Will you join them? Take the RISE Pledge to End Racism and encourage others to join you by sharing the pledge on social media and tag us @RISEtoWIN (Twitter/Instagram) or @RISEtoWIN (Facebook) with the #LearnToRISE

Take the Pledge

In course 1, we learned about the many ways athletes, teams and organizations at all levels can use their platforms to raise awareness about injustice and encourage others to take steps to bring about change. As instrumental members of society, they can and have used their influence, expertise and reach to address inequity. In course 2, we take a closer look at those who are using their platforms to specifically drive the change around issues of racial equity and civic engagement. This makes sense given the long legacy that athletes such as Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have left. Excitingly, it seems this current generation has accepted that they are more than just ambassadors of their sport but that they are ambassadors of us all.

"I'm inspired by the likes of Muhammad Ali, I'm inspired by the Bill Russells and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars, the Oscar Robertsons — those guys who stood when the times were even way worse than they are today. Hopefully, someday down the line, people will recognize me not only for the way I approached the game of basketball, but the way I approached life as an African-American man." — LeBron James

During 2020, we've seen the mobilization of a social justice movement that we have not seen in decades, and one that we have never seen before in sports.

Across all sports leagues and levels, athletes, coaches and staffs leveraged their platforms to create positive change, from conducting player strikes to calling on owners to use their power to promote social justice. Voices in sports matter in our culture, and their words and acts were heard throughout our country this year.

See how athletes and organizations from the professional and amateur ranks promoted racial equity and championed social justice through civic engagement and pledges to be anti-racist.

The Kansas City Chiefs Want You to Register to Vote

Kansas City Chiefs Voter Education and Registration Campaign

Victor Cruz talks with RISE about New York Giants Team of Teams Initiative

Student-Athletes take the RISE Pledge to be Anti-Racist

Take Action

Through voting, more change can happen in one night than at any other time of the year. Make sure your voice is heard by taking action this election season and beyond.

Register to vote: risetowin.turbovote.org

Request Your Mail In Ballot: risetowin.turbovote.org

Create Your Voter Plan / Early Voting: Visit VOTE411 or Election Protection to help get started

Use your voice

Remember civic engagement doesn't begin and end with voting

RISE Digital Learning Series Topics


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Sports as a Vehicle for Change

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