Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

The Revival of Athlete Activism(s): Divergent Black Politics in the 2016 Presidential Election Engagements of LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick

Steve Marston


In the fall of 2016, LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick stood as two of the most visible figures in the recent revival of Black sport-activism. It is perhaps inevitable, then, that both men engaged in that season’s Presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. However, they did so in disparate ways. James aligned himself with Clinton, publicly endorsing the Democratic candidate through an optimistic worldview in which benevolent social leadership paved the way toward lessened inequality, racial or otherwise. On the other hand, Kaepernick rejected both candidates as representatives of institutional oppression, instead favoring grassroots, community-based resistance. When placed in historical context, their actions reflect deep strands in the history of Black politics, particularly the distinct but overlapping ideologies of liberalism and radicalism. Through a study of their engagement with Presidential politics, it is demonstrated that contemporary sport activism, or what may be described as a network of interconnected “activisms,” echoes both the shared ideology and internal nuance present in Leftist Black politics for over a century.

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