Martin Luther King, Jr. is an icon of the civil rights movement and, long after his death, NFL players remind us of his legacy.
Equality. Non-discrimination. Justice. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the 20th century’s best-known advocates for nonviolent social change and stood for all of these things. And in 2016, more than 50 years after King received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in America, violence and unrest persist across the country following fatal shootings at the hands of police, among other things.
Among the unrest, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled in protest during the national anthem. It was his protest of “a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” (per his own comments), but continued his protest—despite immense criticism—for justice.
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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton reminded us that King’s message transcends race. Following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and subsequent protests in Charlotte, Newton wore a shirt with King’s words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Justice—not racial justice, but for all.
While King stood for non-discrimination and equality among races, his efforts led to crowning legislative achievements, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Along with ending segregation in public places, that legislation also banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or national origin. These NFL players like Newton and Kaepernick may not have the eloquence or delicacy that Dr. King did, but they still look for justice all the same.
On Monday, what would’ve been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 88th birthday, let us reflect on his real legacy. Let’s remember that he didn’t just seek racial justice. Though imperfect No, among unrest and violence, he stood firmly for and impacted civil rights. For all.