It Was Always a Choice: Picking Up the Baton of Athlete Activism

Temple Univ. Jul. 2022. 200p. ISBN 9781439921739. $23. SPORTS
In this well written and well researched book, Steele (who coauthored Olympic sprinter Tommie Smith’s autobiography Silent Gesture, about his civil rights demonstration at the 1968 Games) directly takes on the issue of antiracist activism by athletes who make an active choice to thrust themselves forward and take a stand and refuse to “shut up and play.” The book begins with a thorough and important examination of football player Colin Kaepernick’s steps toward deciding not to stand for the national anthem in 2016. Steele next journeys back to the Olympics of 1968 and the story of Smith’s and John Carlos’s raised, black-gloved fists on the 200-meter dash medal stand in Mexico City; here he discusses how the runners, both of them Black Americans, came to the decision to make their statement about racism, for which they were excoriated by the IOC and expelled from the Games. Beyond these two iconic instances, Steele’s book also shares stories of less well-known male and female athletes in American history who have taken stands on racism and police violence.
VERDICT Highly recommended for all readers of all ages. Steele’s work shares new insights on activism in American athletics and particularly keys in on the consequences of athletes’ protests.
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