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Over the course of the last week pro athletes have taken the court and the field wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts and walking out with their hands up.

Their gestures are a sign of solidarity and support of all of the protests against police brutality taking place across America.

On Friday, NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas and former Etan Thomas, former player for the Washington Wizards, joined Roland Martin on “NewsOne Now” to talk about the role of athletes in the current fight for social justice.

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 Isiah Thomas told Martin, “Activism and sports have always gone hand in hand in this country and you can go all the way back to the Olympics with Jesse Owens. In sports, we’ve had Muhammad Ali, we’ve had Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russell and a number of other athletes who have put their careers [on the line] and have also expressed their opinions within the sporting arena.”

The former Detroit Piston said that sports has “always been a place where society has really come to discuss really tough, hard issues because sports is the place where you’re supposed to have a level playing field, you’re supposed to have equality for all…it’s not surprising to me that this will be the place for activism.”

Etan Thomas said, “I commend all of the different athletes for being able to stand up for what they believe in, especially because they know the criticism is going to come.”

Thomas also recounted an interview conducted on “The Collision” with Dr. John Carlos who talked about the criticism he and Tommie Smith experienced after the 1968 Olympics.

Thomas explained the Olympians were ridiculed, demonized and people tried to “tear down their whole message” in the same fashion as the media is trying to do with today’s athletes that are taking a stand for social justice.

Watch Martin, Isiah Tomas, Etan Thomas and the “NewsOne Now” panel discuss the issues surrounding pro athletes and taking a public stand in support of the #BlackLivesMatter, #ICantBreathe and #HandsUpDontShoot movements.

Should athletes continue to speak out publicly even though they may be putting their careers on the line? 

Be sure to listen to “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, weekdays at 7 a.m. EST and watch at 9 a.m. EST on TV One.

Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.

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