League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, was interviewed for this article examining the activism of African-American athletes in the United States throughout history.
Following is an excerpt from Al Jazeera on Jackie Robinson as part of a Black History Month feature, The black game changers of US sport
From Muhammad Ali to Serena Williams:
Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in Major League Baseball (MLB) when he stepped out on the field to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, becoming the first African American to play in the MLB.
Over a decade-long career, strife with racial abuse and harassment, the second baseman won the 1955 World Series, was named Rookie of the Year in his first season, and the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) two years later.
After his retirement from the sport in 1956, Robinson devoted his life to the civil rights movement, serving as a board member for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” Robinson once said.
For his achievements and efforts, Robinson received two of the highest American awards: the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Ken Reed, sports analyst and author, believes Robinson is “probably the most famous and influential African American social activist to challenge inequality” in sports.
“Robinson was a man of great integrity and courage,” Reed, who is the sports policy director at the League of Fans told Al Jazeera in an email.
“He was an MVP and world champion on the baseball field, but more importantly, he was an MVP and world champion in the game of life for his work in fighting for social justice in the US.”
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.