“Just stick to sports?” Not if we want justice.


“Just stick to sports.”

We have been hearing that a lot lately, from people – like Trump – who are afraid of the power of athletes standing up for social justice. More and more athletes are refusing to ignore or stay silent about injustices – and it is a powerful thing to witness.

As you know, the National Football League (NFL) has been in the spotlight of national discussions around athlete activism for racial justice, as players continue their protests to bring attention to the problem of police brutality. And this year, athlete activism hit a milestone: expanding to include the conversation on Palestine.

Six NFL players, including Super Bowl star Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks, withdrew from an Israeli propaganda trip meant to whitewash its war crimes against Palestinians. Bennett used his platform as a prominent athlete to shed light on Palestine, introducing it to thousands of people who had never engaged with the issue before.

The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights played a pivotal role in this win – which is why I’m writing today to ask you to join me in supporting this organization’s critical work for freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people.

Earlier this year, the US Campaign spearheaded an open letter that called on the players to take a stand on the right side of history because they know the powerful history of athletes contributing to movements for justice and dignity: Muhammad Ali refused to fight in Vietnam in 1967, strengthening anti-war protests; John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in a Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics, further propelling the struggle for Black liberation; the University of Missouri football team boycotted over racist incidents on campus in 2015, forcing the university president to step down; and earlier this year, the USA women’s hockey team went on strike to protest unequal pay, winning both their demands and the world championship.

The impact of athletes speaking out cannot be denied, which is why I am urging you to give to the US Campaign to support the important work of strengthening the movement for Palestinian rights.

The sports boycott was an integral part of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. In this moment of reinvigorated activism in sports, we have an unmissable opportunity to ensure Palestine is part of the conversation. There are certainly more than enough examples of these intersecting in Palestine, from the FIFA decision allowing six illegal settlement teams to continue playing, to Palestinian soccer players being shot in the feet by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, to having their travel restricted when they are scheduled to play international games.

Join me in supporting the important work of sports boycotts in solidarity with Palestinians. Your gift will provide the US Campaign’s experienced staff and member groups with the resources necessary to build on wins and bring more athletes into the movement for Palestinian rights.

Dave Zirin
Sports Editor, The Nation