With the 55th Super Bowl underway, we are reminder today to celebrate athletes who’ve had an undeniable and lasting impact in their respective sport. This month being Black History Month, we are taking a moment to salute some of these athletes who continue to make strides for a better tomorrow, and who’s lives have inspired us to change for the better.
Our roundup includes current and historical athletes including Colin Kaepernick, Kobe Bryant, Muhammad Ali, Naomi Osaka, Wilma Rudolph, and Jackie Robinson. Continue reading along for more information on each athlete:
Colin Kaepernick: Colin Rand Kaepernick (/ˈkæpərnɪk/ KAP-ər-nik; born November 3, 1987) is an American civil rights activist and football quarterback who is a free agent. He played six seasons for the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football League (NFL). Kaepernick is now (and may forever be) known for a simple, silent gesture. He is the quarterback who knelt for the national anthem before National Football League games in 2017 as a protest against social injustice, especially the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police.
Kobe Bryant: Kobe Bean Bryant (/ˈkoʊbiː/ KOH-bee; August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020) was an American professional basketball player. Bryant opted to forgo college and declared himself eligible for the NBA draft when he graduated from high school. The Charlotte Hornets chose him with the 13th pick of the 1996 draft. He was traded to the Lakers shortly thereafter and became the second youngest NBA player in history when the 1996–97 season opened. He quickly proved his merit with the Lakers and was selected for the NBA All-Star Game in just his second season, becoming the youngest All-Star. A shooting guard, he spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He fatally passed in a helicopter accident in 2020 alongside his daughter, Gia Bryant.
Naomi Osaka: Naomi Osaka (大坂 なおみ, Ōsaka Naomi, born 16 October 1997) is a professional tennis player. At only 22 years old, Osaka has been ranked No. 1 by the Women's Tennis Association, and is the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles. She is a three-time Grand Slam singles champion, and is the reigning champion at the US Open.
Muhammad Ali: (/ɑːˈliː/; born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.; January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) was an American professional boxer, activist, entertainer and philanthropist. Nicknamed The Greatest, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated figures of the 20th century and as one of the greatest boxers of all time. He’d sacrificed the prime years of his career (1967–70) in a battle with the U.S. government over his refusal to be inducted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Ali also served as one of the most visible athletes during the civil rights movement of the ’60s and black liberation battles of the ’70s.
Wilma Rudolph: Wilma Glodean Rudolph (June 23, 1940 – November 12, 1994) was an American sprinter born in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee, who became a world-record-holding Olympic champion and international sports icon in track and field following her successes in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games. After episodes of Polio, Pneumonia, and even Scarlet Fever, she was told she would never walk again and had a brace on her left leg as a child. Training through this, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics: the 100 meters, 200 meters (in which she set a world record of 23.2 seconds) and 4×100-meter relay.
Jackie Robinson: Jack Roosevelt Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was an American professional baseball player who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. Robinson broke the baseball color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.