All Blacks and Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara has spoken out about racial injustice and the resulting player strikes in several sports across America.
Perenara, who often uses his online platform to speak about social justice issues, posted a series of tweets in support of last week's player protests in America.
"Not knowing facts? enlighten me please?" Perenara wrote in a reply to a fan who suggested athletes shouldn't get involved with social and political issues.
"I'm not sure Athletes making a stance on police brutality towards Black Lives is the problem. The POLICE BRUTALITY TOWARDS BLACK LIVES is the problem.
"It worries me that you're content with people being shot for resisting arrest."
Perenara's response followed a couple of tweets where he showed his support for the mass athlete strikes in American professional sports, a movement that began after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Blake, 29, was shot in the back by police while three of his children looked on. He was hit by four of seven shots fired at his back as officers attempted to arrest him, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. News of the incident, and video of the shooting which went viral on social media, sparked a resurgence of protests against racial injustice and police brutality across the United States.
Perenara took to social media to show his solidarity with the athlete strikes in the MLB, where players took the field for a 42-second moment of silence – a tribute to Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball – before walking off the field in protest.
The All Black No 9 also showed his support for a tweet from hip hop artist Lecrae, who wrote: "If you're more upset about the athletes boycotting than you are about the death, division, and discrimination in our society ... your priorities are wrong."
The mass athlete movement to boycott professional sports started in the NBA when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play in game five of their playoffs matchup against the Orlando Magic and quickly extended to other sports across America, from baseball to ice hockey.
Athletes in the NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS all decided not to play their games on August 27.
The evolution of athlete activism
What was different about the recent spate of mass player strikes, compared to previous player protests in sport, was the fact that it was a labour-based movement that went beyond symbolism.
The NBA and symbols of social justice have been intertwined throughout its recent history, but the player strikes signalled a move from symbolic gestures to a labour movement demanding real political change.
Before the resumption of the season at their Disney bubble in Orlando, many NBA players wrestled for weeks about whether it was even right to play, fearing that a return to games would take attention off the deaths of, among others, Floyd and Breonna Taylor in recent months.
They ultimately decided coming to the bubble and playing televised games would give them the largest platform to draw attention to systemic racism in America.
However, the police shooting of Blake caused some players to question the effectiveness of the corporatised, approved activism by the league.
Among the social justice initiatives allowed by the NBA were approved messages on player jerseys and "Black Lives Matter" painted across the courts. It is also worth noting that the NBA made significant donations to charitable causes players were passionate about.
But following the shooting of Blake in Wisconsin, many players once again questioned if they could be doing more - and realised that withholding their labour was a strong way to leverage real social and political change.
"Oh you don't hear us … well now you can't see us!" Los Angeles Lakers guard JR Smith said after the initial player strikes.
An article on The Conversation described the new athlete movement as one that "eschews the trappings of symbolic spectacle" into something more real and tangible.
"In a polarised political environment under a president keen to stoke racial division, I see attempts at moral persuasion as teardrops in a poisoned well," editor Misha Ketchell wrote.
"What began with the Milwaukee Bucks in Orlando signals a new form of athlete activism not because the platform is growing or the arguments are becoming more convincing, but because it eschews the trappings of symbolic spectacle.
"The players are leveraging labour power to accomplish real political work."
One of the initiatives to come from the player strike was for NBA arenas to be turned into polling stations in the upcoming US presidential elections to help combat issues and worries of voter suppression in America.
NBA players agreed to resume the season after coming to a deal on a list of "actionable items" on social and racial justice in America.
Perenara leading the way for Kiwi athletes
Athlete activism has long been woven deep into the fabric of world sport, including in New Zealand.
Perenara has led the way in New Zealand and has been a strong advocate for social justice throughout his career both on and off the field.
He recently spoke about his support for the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in May this year and spoke about the importance of the protests that were organised across Aotearoa in June – a series of rallies that also protested against systemic racism in New Zealand and the arming of police officers.
Perenara said he "firmly stands" with the Black Lives Matter movement, adding that the protests in New Zealand were important because racism is still a major problem in this country.
"For a big part there's a lot of positive things happening in the world and there's also a lot of negative things that individuals and groups are doing in this space," Perenara said.
"I firmly stand with Black Lives Matter. I stand with the people who are being affected by it as well.
"I can't speak for everyone but some people have taken some responsibility and I think it's good. I don't think it (racism) is isolated to America.
"It's a problem we have all over the world including our own country. For us to see people rallying and getting behind it and standing with Black Lives Matter is a really important thing for us to do."
The 28-year-old has been at the forefront of rugby players speaking out about social issues throughout his career.
Last year he spoke with LGBTQIA+ publication Express magazine and indicated that the All Blacks would be open to welcome an openly gay teammate.
He said he believed both the team and the New Zealand rugby public shared his inclusive attitude.
"Our job is to make sure that people from all communities feel comfortable enough to aspire to want to be an All Black, so I would hope that if anyone from the LGBTQIA+ community became an All Black, they would feel accepted and wanted in the environment."
In response to Israel Folau's homophobic Instagram posts in 2018, Perenara took to social media to say he was "100 per cent against the comments" made by his former Wallabies rival.
"I'd like to add my voice to the conversation currently taking place," Perenara wrote on Twitter.
"As professional rugby players, whether we like it or not, we are role models for a lot of young people. Notably, young Māori and Pasifika people.
"You don't need to look far to know that young Māori/PI are overrepresented in youth suicide statistics and, as I understand it, even more so when you look to those who are part of the Rainbow community. Comments that cause further harm cannot be tolerated."
Perenara, who has also worked to promote inclusion and diversity in the community, said Folau's "harmful" comments were not something he wants to see in rugby.
"Let it go on record that I am 100 per cent against the comments that were made by Israel. It was not okay to say that. It's not an attitude I want to see in the game I love. There is no justification for such harmful comments."
In August last year, Perenara made a statement during an All Blacks test in support of the Ihumātao protests happening near the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve in Māngere, where "protectors" were occupying the land to stop a planned housing development by Fletcher Building.
Perenara wore a wristband with the words "Ihumātao" etched in bold black letters during the All Blacks' Bledisloe Cup clash against the Wallabies at Eden Park as a way of showing solidarity with the movement. He also visited the protest site and encouraged others to do so.
"I guess for me, wearing Ihumātao on my wrist was a sign of solidarity with our people," Perenara told Māori TV. "It's me showing my support and where my heart lies with it and that's what I can do from afar."
He was also part of a Government-funded advert to encourage New Zealanders to work together to halt the spread of coronavirus.