With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Before Trump vs. the NFL, there was Jackie Robinson vs. JFK

President Trump ignited a firestorm this weekend by demanding NFL owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem, setting off a wave of protests by players, coaches and even owners that riveted the country Sunday. But long before Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players drew Trump’s ire, professional athletes protested racial oppression in the United States.

One African American sports icon even badgered a president publicly. Jackie Robinson, the hero who integrated Major League Baseball in 1947, spoke out loudly for civil rights and challenged President John F. Kennedy to stop dithering on black equality.

Unlike Trump, JFK sought to understand Robinson’s complaints, corresponded by letter with the baseball star and met with him to hear his concerns. Eventually, in response to Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr. and a growing protest movement, Kennedy delivered a landmark speech in 1963 that spoke of inequality in moral terms and set in motion civil rights legislation that passed the year after his assassination. For his part, Jackie Robinson, after having repeatedly disparaged Kennedy, arrived at a new appreciation for JFK’s willingness to hear the pleas of African Americans and lead on civil rights.

Read entire article at The Washington Post