When Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles withdrew from competitions, both citing mental health, many people didn’t understand.
However, given how much pressure Black athletes are under, it makes perfect sense – and they’re not alone.
Paul Robeson was carrying the weight of the world well before he hit the stage. An All-American football star, Robeson broke records and race barriers at Rutgers University. Imagine the toll on this brilliant mind to have to excel – and “represent” Black people to the world.
Arthur Ashe made history by winning the U.S. Open during one of the most turbulent times in history: the death of MLK and violent attacks on Civil Rights activists. It’s incredible that he protested racism and kept winning titles, in spite of the death threats he received.
Curt Flood won his share of titles in baseball, but he downright refused to be treated like a piece of property. When his team tried to trade him, he sued – and in doing so made a statement about the hardships of facing racism while on a white team.
Black athletes face racism and mistreatment from a sports industry that seeks to exploit their talents. This system seeks to profit from our bodies and ignore the impacts it has on our minds. We applaud these athletes for standing up in their humanness to bring light to such an important issue.