During the 2016 NFL season, when then–San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality, he joined a roster of athletes who have come to symbolize the intersection of sports and activism: Jackie Robinson, who agreed to turn the other cheek when confronted with racist insults and threats of violence, and U.S. sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith, who bowed their heads and raised their fists on the medalists’ podium at the 1968 Summer Olympics.
Lakers great Elgin Baylor also faced racial discrimination: he sat out a game in Charleston, W.Va., during his rookie season in 1959, after he was refused a hotel room there. His protest turned into a national story and prompted an apology from the town’s mayor. Baylor’s memoir, Hang Time (HMH, Apr.), written with Alan Eisenstock (Sports Talk), covers his 40 years in professional basketball, including his support of the threatened player boycott of the 1964 NBA All-Star Game, which secured better working conditions for athletes in the league.