Winston-Salem, N.C. - Race, politics and sports: it has been a controversial mix lately - and one that took center stage Friday at Wake Forest University.
The three topics meet at an intersection we are growing more familiar with - athletes taking a knee during the national anthem. The actions have spurred conversation and controversy over the last several weeks. But protests aren't new even in sports.
The three on the moderated panel were Olympian John Carlos, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and Ibtihaj Muhammad. Carlos raised his fist in solidarity with the civil rights movement at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City after winning bronze. In 1996, Abdul-Rauf, an NBA player, refused to stand during the anthem - then, when he did, he kept his eyes closed, and looked down. Now these immortalized actions are widely known -- and are the roots of a movement taking place in modern day.
“It's really unprecedented, what you're seeing now with athletes from all cross sections of sports - male and female, taking a stand, and making a position,” said Abdul-Rauf.
The third panelist, Ibtihaj Muhammad just recently won a bronze medal at the Rio de Janiero Olympics last year for fencing. She is the first Muslim American woman to compete on Team USA wearing a hijab. She did not even expect to make the team - let alone win a medal, and she took the opportunity to represent people like her.
“My agent told me, ‘If you don't use your voice to speak up for people who look like you, who's going to do it? And that's what I had been waiting to hear it, chomping at the bit waiting for someone to encourage me to do it,” she said.
The three talked about the current political climate- what it means to protest - and how they feel about all of it.
“I feel very refreshed and invigorated to know that the fight is going to warm up, because we're going to squash this thing called prejudice and bias as best we can,” said Carlos.
This panel was held as part of a multi-day Wake Forest University conference to explore what it means to live in a diverse society.