On Aug. 26, 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem before a preseason game. When asked about his action, Kaepernick, the son of a White mother and Black father, responded, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

Since then, the conversation surrounding athlete activism has gotten deeper and increasingly heated. While many people believe that athletes are not qualified to comment on political, social, or cultural matters, I think that view is dangerously misguided. Athletes, after all, are as entitled to their opinions as anyone else. If they choose to speak out or act against injustice, more power to them.

I want to highlight two February books that address these issues. The first is The Black Athlete Revolt: The Sport Justice Movement in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter (Rowman & Littlefield, Feb. 8) by Shaun M. Anderson, which we call “a useful primer on the ever shifting playing field of sports and race.” Tracing the past few decades of protests by Black athletes, Anderson paints a clear picture of what these figures face when attempting to speak their minds about race relations, police brutality, and systemic oppression. From Kaepernick to LeBron James, who has been as outspoken as anyone, Black players from all the major sports have made important contributions to numerous social justice initiatives. In Anderson’s final chapter, our reviewer says, he “thoughtfully explores how recent trends can fuel a ‘sport justice movement’ that addresses pro teams’ relationships with police, equitable treatment of college players, and players’ deeper engagement with their communities.”

While Anderson’s book lays out a straightforward overview, The Education of Kendrick Perkins: A Memoir (St. Martin’s, Feb. 21) by Kendrick Perkins (with Seth Rogoff) is a deeply personal and justifiably fiery look at the author’s journey from rural Texas to the bright lights of the NBA. “Though the author was well aware of the barriers facing Black people in Jim Crow Texas,” notes our starred review, “he was somewhat surprised to find them in Boston, where he first played for the Celtics.” Entering the NBA directly out of high school, Perkins enjoyed a successful career, retiring in 2018 to become a sportscaster. Since then, he has been an opinionated, sometimes controversial voice on ESPN.

Across a variety of programs, Perkins is unapologetic about the need for Black athletes to use their platform to promote justice. As our review notes, “the author writes pointedly of the need for Black athletes to speak against injustice as they did in the 1960s before being silenced with money and endorsements—here, he singles out Michael Jordan—and to resist racism in all its guises.” In addition to a fascinating life story, Perkins delivers a broader message that is urgent, bold, and challenging in all the right ways.

If you enjoy these books, keep an eye out for Gregory J. Kaliss’ Beyond the Black Power Salute: Athlete Activism in an Era of Change (Univ. of Illinois), coming in April. We call it “valuable background reading for anyone interested in sports activism.”

Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.