Throughout the history of sports, there have been iconic moments that have helped shape a generation of die hard fans. There are times, however, when moments go beyond that Hail Mary pass or underdog win to make a mark in history, changing not only the way people view sports, but also advancing social justice.


Rugby And Apartheid

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The racially divisive apartheid system in South Africa heavily impacted both the political and social infrastructure, even after it ended back in 1993. Two years later when the South African Springboks defeated the New Zealand All Blacks during the Rugby World Cup, it was a defining moment in bringing unity and easing some of the racial tensions. Then South African President Nelson Mandela even shook hands with the Springboks captain Francois Pienaar after the big game.


Jesse Owens Takes A Stand Against Nazi Germany

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The 1936 Olympic games in Berlin were supposed to be Hitler's showcasing of why the Aryan race was superior to all others. Unfortunately for him, American track and field athlete Jesse Owens wasn't going to play along with the Nazi leader's game. Owens went on to win four gold medals and while he was on the medal stand for the long jump, he was captured saluting, an image that became one of the most powerful moments in sports history.

When Owens returned home, he was greeted with love and support from fans of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. One person, however, didn't care enough about Owens' accomplishments to give him a call. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's political party may not have appreciated giving congratulations to a black man, so Owens was ignored. He later said, “Hitler didn’t snub me; it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send a telegram.”

Black Pride At The Olympic Games

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Another major moment in sports history was at the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968 when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists as a display of black pride while they were receiving their medals for first and third place, respectively. They made this gesture during the U.S. National Anthem while also wearing the Olympic Project For Human Rights badge. Although silver medalist Peter Norman didn't have his hand raised, he too, wore the Olympic Project For Human Rights badge as a gesture of solidarity against inequality.

Lou Gehrig's Retirement

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As Lou Gehrig's battle with ALS increased, a disease that would later be named after him, he could no longer play baseball and was forced to retire. On Independence Day, a emotional ceremony was held for the New York Yankee star who retired his number as he gave a short speech in front of friends and fans.



The Legless Football Player

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Bobby Martin stood at only three feet tall when he played high school football back in 2005. Martin was born without legs and uses his arms to run, and because he doesn't have thighs, he is unable to wear prosthetic, but that didn't stop him from playing punt and kickoff coverage as well as the varsity nose tackle.



Muhammad Ali Stripped Of Title

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One of the greatest boxing wins was back in 1965 when Cassius Clay knocked out heavyweight champion Sonny Liston and took over the title. The next day he announced that he was now apart of the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. During the Vietnam War draft, Ali refused to enlist in the Army due to his religion, which resulted in him being stripped of his title.



Jackie Robinson Becomes A Dodger, 1947

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Back when the Dodgers were a Brooklyn team, baseball wasn't as ethnically diverse as it is today. Jackie Robinson endured many obstacles as he made his way to major league baseball, but it was his perseverance, talent, and skill that kept him going. After signing with the Dodgers in 1947, he became the first black player on a major league team and paved the way for other players of color to step into the baseball arena, enduring death threats and being ignored almost everywhere he went by other players.

Ben Johnson's Lifetime Ban

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Jamaican-born Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson had a big win at the Seoul Summer Olympic Games in 1988. He set a world record and was nicknamed the "Human Bullet." Unfortunately for him, he later tested positive for steroids and his 1987 and 1988 titles were taken from him. Years later at the Barcelona Olympics he was allowed to return, but he again tested positive for testosterone. After that, he was banned from competing for life.

Tiger Woods Wins Masters At Once Segregated Golf Course

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Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club was a place known for its history of segregation. It wasn't until 1975 that black people could even play its course and it was 1990 when blacks could join. In 1997, Tiger Woods became the young player to win the Masters at 21 years old, changing perceptions in the golfing community about people of color.


Reggie Bush's Heisman Lose

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USC running back Reggie Bush was instrumental in helping the university's football team take home many wins, including the December 2005 game against rival UCLA. He was awarded the 2005 Heisman Trophy for that season, but that was later taken from him after an NCAA investigation concluded that both Bush and his family received lavish gifts from sports agent Lloyd Lake while he was playing for the Trojans. The university was stripped of two wins during their 2004 season, including the Orange Bowl, and they later removed all of Bush's jerseys from campus facilities that were once mounted in his honor.