Meet three athletes trying to inspire social change


Molly Thompson-Smith, Carl Frampton and Helen Richardson-Walsh tell us why they're more than just athletes.

When NBA star LeBron James told the world last year he would "definitely not shut up and dribble" after Fox News host Laura Ingraham advised him to stop speaking out about social injustice, he joined a growing number of athletes using their status to challenge what they see as wrongdoings.

After that exchange between LeBron and Ingraham, he set up the 'more than an athlete' and 'we will not shut up and dribble' hashtags, which were - and are - being used to signal defiance towards the attitude that athletes should just stick to their day jobs.

It's been more than two years since then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided not to stand during the American national anthem in a pre-season game, explaining afterwards: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way."

Last year, his move was celebrated by Nike as part of a 2018 advertising campaign, with the slogan: "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything." Nike described Kaepernick as "one of the most inspirational athletes of his generation".

The campaign also featured Serena Williams, who has called out what she sees as sexism in tennis (backed by the Women's Tennis Association) and has been vocal on race issues in America, including saying she "wouldn't be silent" about police violence in 2016.

While celebrated by some, the Nike ad sparked a backlash from other quarters, with critics burning the brand's products. Interestingly though, the campaign ultimately ended up in an increase in sales for the company.

It's not just American sportspeople taking a stand (or a kneel) - the trend has travelled across the pond. Here BBC Three speaks to several UK athletes - boxer Carl Frampton, climber Molly Thompson-Smith and Olympic hockey gold medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh - about the causes they are championing and how they are using their status to talk about the issues they care about.


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