Throughout the course of history, there have been a number of Black athletes that have sacrificed their careers, financial standing and safety to protest injustice within American society. From Craig Hodges to Tommie Smith, athletes have protested inequality and injustice by kneeling during the national anthem or even confronting lawmakers. Unfortunately, there are a few trailblazers that are often overlooked when discussing activism within professional sports. One name that is often forgotten is Eroseanna "Rose" Robinson.
Rose Robinson is a talented track and field athlete who emerged during the 1950s. In 1958, she won the AAU high jumping championships and joined the United States Track & Field team. Shortly thereafter, she was offered an opportunity to participate in the 1960 Olympics. With the Olympics set to take place in the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, there was incredible political significance attached to the event. For that, Robinson turned the offer down.
"I don't want anyone to think my athletics have political connotations. In other words, I don't want to be used as a political pawn," she told Jet Magazine.
One year later, Robinson made another significant statement by sitting down during the national anthem at the Pan-American Games. This act drew scrutiny from many including the federal government. Not long after she protested the national anthem at the Pan-American Games, she was arrested and jailed for tax evasion.
"I have not entered my tax return for 1954-1958 because I know a large part of it goes to armaments," she told Jet Magazine.
"The US government is very active in atom bombs and fallout, which is destructive rather than constructive. If I pay income tax, I am participating in that destruction."
Despite being sentenced to 366 days in jail, her protest efforts did not slow down. During her sentence, she refused all food and drinks offered to her. Over time, she had to be force-fed and became so weak that she struggled to walk. After three months, Robinson's hunger strike, external protest efforts and intense media coverage led to an early release.
Her hunger strike ultimately diminished her physical stature and ended her athletic career. Still, her relentlessness, confidence and fearlessness lives on in the protest efforts of Colin Kaepernick and so many others.
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