Washington (CNN)When Beyonc got political and paid tribute to the “Black Lives Matter” movement at the Super Bowl last year, many sports fans were up in arms, accusing the star of violating what some consider to be an unspoken rule: Keep politics out of sports.
But in an America that is still reeling from a divisive presidential election cycle, where the rise of President Donald Trump catapulted heated debates over race and social issues into the mainstream, many athletes are becoming politically active in a way not seen in decades. And not everyone is happy about it.
“Sports is really no longer an escape from the real world that it used to be. Sports is a mirror of our society,” CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan said. “I think because Trump is so controversial and because the things he’s saying and doing run counter to what many people believe … athletes are finding their voice in a way that is reminiscent of the 1960s.”
Curry, who was not known for inserting himself into politics prior to 2016, publicly confronted the CEO of Under Armour Kevin Plank, saying, “I agree with that description if you remove the ‘et’ from asset.”
Cleveland Cavaliers star forward Lebron Jamesslammed Trump’s travel ban last week, saying, it “does not represent what the United States is about.”
And NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who formally endorsed Clinton, said the ban makes America “a bad horror movie.”
Six New England Patriots players, including Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty, who protested racism on the field by raising their fists during the national anthem, announced that they will skip the team’s upcoming White House visit, where they will be honored by Trump for winning this year’s Super Bowl.
While not all six cited political reasons, some specifically pointed to their opposition to Trump.
“Basic reason for me is I don’t feel accepted in the White House,” McCourty said. “With the President having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.”
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich both slammed Trump last month in what Brennan describes as “absolutely the stuff of history.”
“I’m completely against what’s happening. I think it’s shocking. It’s a horrible idea,” Kerr said, reacting to news of the travel ban. “I feel for all the people that are affected. Families are being torn apart, and I worry in the big picture what this means to the security of the world.”
And before he died in June, Muhammad Ali dove into another political battle and spoke out against what was then candidate Trump’s proposed temporary “Muslim ban.”
“We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda,” Ali said in December. “They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.”
When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem in August to protest racial injustice, he quickly became one of the most controversial figures in sports like several others before him.