Why Serena Williams Says Americans Should Be 'Grateful' For Athletes Who Protest

"They really use their platform in ways that is really unfathomable."

Tennis star Serena Williams praised former NFL players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid at the US Open on Friday. Kaepernick and Reid — who made headlines for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice — were in the stands for her match against sister Venus at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City.

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"I think every athlete, every human, and definitely every African-American should be completely grateful and honored how Colin and Eric are doing so much more for the greater good, so to say," Williams said, according to the Associated Press. "They really use their platform in ways that is really unfathomable. I feel like they obviously have great respect from a lot of their peers, especially other athletes, people that really are looking for social change."

The crowd applauded Kaepernick and Reid when they were shown on the screen during Friday's match. Both athletes formerly played for the San Francisco 49ers, and have since filed grievances against the NFL, claiming the league conspired not to sign them due to their activism. In their absence, several other players have continued to take a knee in protest of police brutality and inequality, even as the league has announced rules against the gesture.

Kaepernick's generosity since leaving the NFL has earned him several awards, including Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, and Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience honor. Earlier this year, he completed his pledge to donate $1 million "to organizations working in oppressed communities."

Williams, who defeated her sister on Friday and reached the US Open quarterfinals with a win against Kaia Kanepi on Sunday, also took the time to meet with Kaepernick's niece Lani after the match. "I know today will motivate Lani to be great!" Reid wrote on Twitter. Kaepernick added that "Lani lost it when Serena surprised her."

As Glamour points out, this isn't the first time Williams has spoken up about social justice — police brutality in particular. In 2016, she posted on Facebook about the fear she felt seeing the police while in the car with her 18-year-old nephew. "Why did I have to think about this in 2016?" she asked.

Williams has also been outspoken about empowering women, sharing her birth-related health issues in a powerful essay to draw attention to the fact that Black women are "three times more likely to die from pregnancy or other childbirth-related causes."

As Williams wrote to end her essay, "Together we can make this change. Together we can be the change."

Cover image: Jimmie48 Photography / Shutterstock.com

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