This Week in Sports and Social Justice: Muslim UFC champ battles Islamophobia; Harvard honors Kap


Welcome to Mic’s new weekly roundup of news coverage related to activism in the world of sports, both on and off the field. Check us out every week for a summary of the latest headlines covering the intersection of sports and social justice issues.

Here we go.

Muslim UFC champ stands up to league over Conor McGregor’s racist tactics

John Locher; /Associated Press

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s future in the premiere mixed martial arts league may be in jeopardy, but the Russian Islamic fighter doesn’t seem to care.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended both Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor for their roles in the explosive brawl that erupted in and outside of the octagon in Las Vegas on Oct. 6 after one of McGregor’s cornermen and training partners allegedly taunted Nurmagomedov following the fight.

The undefeated champ couldn’t contain his rage during the live pay-per-view event after enduring weeks of Islamophobic taunts from McGregor and his team who called Nurmagomedov’s manager a “terrorist rat,” and accused him of being involved in the 9/11 attacks. Earlier this year, McGregor violently attacked a bus. He has a history of using racism to promote his fights.

On Thursday, Nurmagomedov posted on Instagram to once again defend his actions as well as his teammate, Zubaira Tukhugov, whose upcoming UFC fight was canceled for attacking McGregor inside the ring during the post-fight melee.

“You canceled Zubaira’s fight and you want to dismiss him just because he hit Conor. But don’t forget that it was Conor who had hit another brother FIRST, just check the video,” Nurmagomedov said in his post. “If you still decide to fire [Tukhugov], don’t forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I’ll break it myself. ... We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing. We intend to go to the end. #Brothers”

McGregor declined to press charges against Nurmagomedov’s teammate after the attack and tweeted that he looks forward to a rematch with the champion.

“I’ll be back,” he added on Instagram.

Harvard University honors Colin Kaepernick

Steven Senne/AP

The accolades for Colin Kaepernick keep piling up.

Harvard University bestowed the former NFL quarterback with its W.E.B. DuBois medal of honor on Thursday for Kaepernick’s ongoing activism on and off the football field, according to USA Today.

Kaepernick was one of eight to receive the medal “in recognition of [his] contributions to African and African American culture and the life of the mind.”

The star of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” ad campaign told the Cambridge, Massachusetts, crowd that it’s his and other privileged people’s responsibility to stand up for and empower the oppressed.

“If we don’t, we become complicit in the problem,” Kaepernick said.

Arkansas sheriff says inmates’ Nike shirts weren’t a knock on Kaepernick

Union County, Arkansas, Sheriff Ricky Roberts defended himself Thursday against allegations that he was making inmates wear Nike shirts during mugshot photos to mock the apparel company for endorsing Kaepernick.

Journalist and activist Shaun King broke the news about the Nike mugshots Wednesday night, accusing county jail officials of forcing inmates to wear Nike shirts in response to the company’s recent ad campaign starring Kaepernick, whose anti-police brutality protests have been condemned by police union officials.

Huffington Post said Roberts released a statement Thursday claiming the Nike shirts were given to inmates who “lack proper attire,” a practice he said pre-dates the sports apparel company’s recently-announced endorsement of Kaepernick.

“This shirt is not only in use now, but has also been for several months prior,” Roberts wrote. “We are not, and will not, be influenced by current political and social debates in the media. … We have taken steps to rectify this issue and ensure that this will never happen again.”

Which NFL players are still protesting racism during the National Anthem?

Jason E. Miczek/AP

Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson continued to take a knee during their team’s pre-game national anthem performances last week, according to Sports Illustrated.

They were joined by the Carolina Panthers’ newly-signed safety Eric Reid who knelt before his team’s game against the New York Giants.

Michael Perez/AP

Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat on the bench during the anthem before the Eagles’ game vs. the Vikings. Seattle Seahawks players Duane Brown, Quinton Jefferson and Branden Jackson stayed in the locker room during the pre-game anthem performance.

All the players symbolic protests are against police brutality and racial inequality.