'Country over company': College of the Ozarks will strip athletes of Nike branding

Yu Chun Christopher Wong/S3studio/Getty Images(POINT LOOKOUT, Mo.) -- The College of the Ozarks, a private Christian school in Point Lookout, Missouri, has announced plans to strip all student-athletes of Nike branding in response to the sportswear company’s controversial 30th anniversary “Just Do It” ad campaign, which features former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“In their new ad campaign, we believe Nike executives are promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America,” College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis said in a statement on Wednesday, according to ABC News affiliate KMBC.

The college said it will “choose its country over company,” and remove all athletic uniforms that were bought from Nike as well as any clothing containing its emblems.

“If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them,” the statement continued. “We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform.”

Kaepernick was the first athlete to kneel during the “Star Spangled Banner,” which is played before NFL games, in protest of police brutality against black people and people of color. He hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2016. Several other professional athletes in the NFL and elsewhere have knelt during the national anthem in solidarity since then, sparking intense political debate across the country.

The College of the Ozarks has made its stance on the issue clear since at least October 2017, when it revised its contracts for competitions in all sports, adding a stipulation that all players and coaches show respect for the American flag and national anthem, according to the publication Ozarks Sports Zone.

The Nike ad is scheduled to air during Thursday’s regular season NFL kickoff game between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. Kaepernick tweeted a preview for the ad on Monday, featuring his face overlaid by a slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” On Wednesday, he tweeted the full commercial.

Kaepernick’s initial tweet prompted many people on the internet to threaten to boycott Nike, as well as throw away or burn any Nike apparel they owned. Similar to College of the Ozarks, one man claimed that Nike was forcing him to choose between his “favorite shoes” and his country.

Others predicted that Nike’s strategy would backfire.

“Nike’s campaign will generate both attention and discussion, which is, arguably, one of its central aims,” Neil Saunders, managing director of data and analytics firm Global Data, previously told ABC News. “However, it is also a risky strategy in that it addresses, and appears to take sides on, a highly politicized issue. This means it could ultimately alienate and lose customers, which is not the purpose of a marketing campaign.”

The company, however, has already benefited from the uproar that the Kaepernick ad has created. In less than 24 hours after first releasing the ad on Twitter, the company received over $43 million worth of media exposure, Bloomberg reported.

NFL executive vice president of communications and public affairs Jocelyn Moore said in a statement on Tuesday, "The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Scoreboard roundup -- 9/5/18

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Wednesday’s sports events:

Boston 9, Atlanta 8
Cleveland 3, Kansas City 1
Toronto 10, Tampa Bay 3
L.A. Angels 9, Texas 3
Houston 9, Minnesota 1
Detroit 10, Chicago White Sox 2
Oakland 8, N.Y. Yankees 2
Seattle 5, Baltimore 2

Pittsburgh 3, Cincinnati 2
St. Louis 7, Washington 6
Miami 2, Philadelphia 1
N.Y. Mets 7, L.A. Dodgers 3
Chicago Cubs 6, Milwaukee 4
Colorado 5, San Francisco 3

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Full-length Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick released

Scott Clarke / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) -- They did it.

Two days after Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, sparked outrage across social media for being the face of Nike’s new ad campaign, the company has released the full two-minute long spot.

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” reads the ad, posted to Kaepernick’s Twitter account on Monday.

As part of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, the Kaepernick ad was a preview to the full-length commercial set to air during the NFL regular season kickoff game Thursday night. Kaepernick, who was the first athlete to kneel during the “Star-Spangled Banner” to protest police brutality against black people and hasn’t played a game since 2016, tweeted the full video of the commercial on Wednesday.

Other athletes featured in the campaign include tennis champion Serena Williams, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and pro-skateboarder Nyjah Huston.

The ad prompted many people online to threaten to boycott the company, while some went so far as to throw out their Nike gear or burn it.

"Nike's campaign will generate both attention and discussion which is, arguably, one of its central aims," Neil Saunders, managing director of data and analytics firm Global Data, previously told ABC News. "However, it is also a risky strategy in that it addresses, and appears to take sides on, a highly politicized issue. This means it could ultimately alienate and lose customers, which is not the purpose of a marketing campaign."

Yet, despite the backlash, the campaign has proven itself successful, receiving more than $43 million worth of media exposure in less than 24 hours, Bloomberg reported.

NFL executive vice president of communications and public affairs Jocelyn Moore said in a statement on Tuesday, “The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”

The commercial ends with Kaepernick saying, “So don’t ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough.” As one of the world’s largest sports apparel companies, it seems Nike’s dream is crazy enough.

Check out the full commercial below.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


USA Gymnastics CEO resigns amid fallout from Larry Nassar abuse scandal

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The fallout from the Larry Nassar scandal continued Tuesday when USA Gymnastics announced the resignation of its embattled CEO Kerry Perry, who sparked a firestorm by hiring a coach who had supported the Olympic doctor turned serial sex-abuser for a key position with the organization.

"On behalf of the Board of USA Gymnastics, I want to thank Kerry for her leadership under very difficult circumstances," Karen Golz, chair of the USA Gymnastics board of directors, said in a statement Tuesday morning.

Perry had served as CEO for just nine months, a tenure marked by a series of missteps over the handling of the Nassar case and criticism from victims abused by the former physician over Perry's lack of transparency about how the organization planned to protect athletes going forward.

Perry did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Nassar, who also worked for decades as a sports physician at Michigan State University, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting numerous athletes under the guise of medical treatment. In January, a Michigan judge sentenced Nassar more than 175 years in prison, calling Nassar's choice to assault scores of girls and women under the pretense that he was treating them "precise, calculated, manipulative, devious and despicable."

In her statement Tuesday, Golz referenced the abuse scandal and said the organization "has been in the midst of a difficult and painful transition to ensure that the safety and interests of our athletes remain at the heart of our mission."

"In the wake of horrific events that have impacted our athletes and the entire gymnastics community, USA Gymnastics has made progress in stabilizing itself and setting a new path to ensure that the safety and interest of our athletes remain at the heart of our mission," Goltz said in another statement from the group's board of directors Tuesday.

Perry's resignation came just days after she hired Mary Lee Tracy as USA Gymnastics' women's elite development coordinator. Tracy is a longtime gymnastics coach who had voiced support for Nassar after he was arrested in 2016 on sex-abuse charges.

Three days after she was hired, Tracy was forced to resign after triggering an uproar from Nassar abuse victims, including Olympic gold medal winner Aly Raisman.

"USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors, & has shown no willingness to learn from the past," Raisman tweeted last week, referring to Tracy.

Tracy then seemed to compounded her problems by attempting to contact Raisman. In a Facebook post, Tracy wrote she tried to contact Raisman to apologize and express "hope we could work together to make our sports better and learn from all the mistakes of the past." She said she was never informed that she was not permitted to speak to Raisman or any of the Nassar victims.

In a statement, USA Gymnastics said Tracy was asked to resign for "inappropriately [contacting] a survivor, who is also a represented plaintiff, in response to that survivor's public criticism of her."

In a statement to ABC News on Wednesday, Tracy said she was "encouraged" by the news of Perry's resignation and the board's decision to seek new leadership.

"Kerry Perry, despite her best intentions, was not suited to lead the association during these difficult times," Tracy said in her statement. "I hope a new leader will be chosen who has a proven record of managing a major sports organization. It's time to make a fresh start in American gymnastics, one in which the gymnastics community, including survivors, come together.

"Athletes in our sport display strength and grace," Tracy added. "Such qualities are needed now more than ever. I call upon all who love gymnastics to come together with a compassionate spirit and work together to rebuild our relationships and our gymnastics association."

Perry's job performance was also panned last week by Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, who knocked Perry for her lack of communication over the steps USA Gymnastics was taking to create a safe environment for athletes.

"Hopefully, it's going in the right direction, but nobody can know until Kerry Perry speaks up. It's kind of hard," Biles said after winning her fifth U.S. Gymnastics Championships all-around title in Boston last month. Biles is one of the hundreds of athletes abused by Nassar.

Perry was hired by USA Gymnastics to replace Steve Penny, who resigned as CEO in March 2017 after being named as a defendant and described as a Nassar enabler in several lawsuits filed by Nassar's victims.

Perry's stint as CEO got off to a rocky start after she was criticized for appearing to prioritize saving USA Gymnastics' endorsement contracts with Nike and other high-profile corporate sponsors over reforming the organization to protect athletes in the wake of the Nassar case.

Golz said the USA Gymnastics board is forming a committee to search for Perry's replacement.

"The committee has been charged with finding a leader who can help the organization build on the progress to date and achieve the fundamental cultural changes necessary to move the sport forward," Golz added in her statement.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Houston Astros fan allegedly kicked out of stadium for displaying domestic abuse hotline sign at game

KTRK(HOUSTON) -- The Houston Astros booted a customer from Minute Maid Park stadium during a game for holding up a sign that read, “Houston Domestic Violence Hot Line 713.528.2121,” the ejected fan told ABC Houston station KTRK-TV.

The telephone number is a working hotline run by the Houston Area Women’s Center, a nonprofit that serves domestic abuse and sexual assault victims.

Team fan Kevin Jukkola created the sign to protest the Astros’ "morally bankrupt" decision this summer to acquire pitcher Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays, he told KTRK.

Osuna is facing a domestic assault charge in Canada, to which he has pleaded not guilty. But he agreed to a suspension of 75 games this summer under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

As for Jukkola, he said stadium personnel escorted him from the stadium Saturday night even though he has held up the sign at previous games without incident.

“Nothing ever happened until Saturday night," Jukkola told KTRK. "I want them to allow me to peacefully protest and not to be removed from the ballpark."

The usher who escorted him out said the sign was not permitted because it wasn't baseball related, he added.

"But lots of signs aren't baseball related," Jukkola said.

Family member Rae Lynn Jukkola told KTRK, "I don't want to condemn [Osuna] for his life. I just think this is an important issue. This is an opportunity for the team and for the fans to bring attention to the issue of domestic violence."

The Astros did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment but told KTRK the team is aware of the incident and is invedtigating.

It had previously addressed the hiring of Osuna, who is Mexican.

Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow said in a statement last month, “The information regarding this specific incident weighed heavily on our decision but when evaluating the entirety of the information, we felt that Roberto deserved a second chance.”

He added, “We will use this decision to significantly increase our support, raise awareness, and influence change regarding the issues of domestic violence and abuse of any kind. We have engaged with Houston Area Women's Center, Texas Council on Family Violence, and National Network to End Domestic Violence and look forward to working with them.”

A related statement also appears on, saying, “The Astros welcome banners that support teams and their players, so long as they are in good taste. The Houston Astros Baseball Club does not permit signs, posters or banners which are obscene, slanderous or in bad taste. Management reserves the right to remove any sign deemed inappropriate.”

Osuna, 23, reportedly had planned to plead not guilty to the charge, according to his lawyer. He will be in court Wednesday, where his attorney is reportedly seeking a peace bond that would essentially drop the charges in exchange for good behavior, according to ESPN.

When reporters asked Osuna about the case in early August, he said, "The important thing is that it resolves itself in the best way possible. I would like for it to be resolved quickly, but whatever amount is necessary, as long as everything turns out well for all parties involved."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Colin Kaepernick named face of Nike's new 30th anniversary 'Just Do It' campaign

Michael Tran / Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, currently embroiled in legal proceedings against the league over alleged collusion by owners, has been chosen as the new face of Nike.

Kaepernick tweeted Monday afternoon he was picked to helm the esteemed shoe brand's 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign -- a return to the slogan that made the company famous.

The quarterback, who knows a thing or two about the sentiment, tweeted a photo of himself with the quote, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything," with the hashtag "JustDoIt.

Kaepernick has been the face of controversy in sports since the 2016 NFL preseason when he decided initially to sit during the national anthem as a means of protesting the treatment of minorities, especially by police. After consulting with a former U.S. Army member, Nate Boyer, he decided to kneel in protest before games. He was joined by San Francisco 49ers teammate Eric Reid, as well as others around the league.

The 30-year-old started just 11 games in 2016 -- one year after starting only eight in 2015 -- after leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in February 2013 and signed a $126 million contract in 2014. He opted out of his contract in 2017, though general manager John Lynch told Pro Football Talk he would've been released if he'd opted in.

In the fall, despite Kaepernick not being signed by any teams, President Donald Trump reignited the fury over his protests during a rally for Alabama Sen. Luther Strange.

Trump told the crowd in September 2017, "Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now?'

"You know, some owner ... is going to say, 'That guy who disrespects our flag, he’s fired,'" Trump said.

Though Trump didn't mention Kaepernick by name -- and he's never mentioned Kaepernick on his Twitter account -- he's continued to be the focal point of criticism, mostly by conservatives.

Kaepernick, who is still unsigned, filed a grievance against the NFL saying owners colluded to keep him out of the league. Reid, who hasn't been signed this offseason, also joined the grievance. An arbiter denied the NFL's motion to dismiss the case last week, which paves the way for it to go to trial, Kaepernick's lawyer Mark Geragos tweeted.

Tennis superstar Serena Williams, a fellow Nike athlete, offered support for her new stable mate after a match at the U.S. Open last week, and echoed those sentiments in a tweet Monday evening.

Williams wasn't the only one who tweeted support for Kaepernick on Monday. Oddly enough, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually advocated for the quarterback on his verified account. The former president, who was in the role from 2005 to 2013, is now a university professor. He sparred with the George W. Bush administration during his tenure, not to mention Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

He had nothing but praise for Kaepernick, though, and advocated him being added to an NFL roster.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Skateboarder becomes first female to land Tony Hawk's infamous loop

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the first time ever, a female has completed legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk's notoriously terrifying loop.

On Aug. 26, Lizzie Armanto of Oceanside, California, was one of the three skateboarders whose names were added to the list of roughly 15 people who have successfully landed the trick created by Hawk.

Armanto chatted with "Good Morning America" about accomplishing the near impossible feat.

"So I made it, and then everyone was screaming," Armanto told "GMA." "A bunch of my friends and Tony [Hawk] ran to me and Tony throws his phone because he was so excited."

Armanto, 25, said she was introduced to skateboarding at the age of 14 when her brother wanted to give it a go.

"My mom just took us both to the skate park and I tried it as well," she recalled. "From the start, we both were at the same level. We didn't know how to do it, but I was like, 'I'm not going to let my little brother be better than me.'"

Armanto soon began competing and entered the 2009 Pro-Tec Pool Party at Vans Skatepark in Orange, California, when she was 16.

"There were't many girls skating at that time and I was just a local girl and they were hooking me up with boards," she said. "By skating my first competition, I got a taste of the bigger skating community and I think that's what really drew me in and made me wanted to pursue [it]."

It was at Vans where Armanto met Hawk and eventually became the newest pro on his Birdhouse skate team. She is the only female member on the team.

"I can call any of those guys up if I needed something and they'd come through," Armanto said of her team, whom she thinks of as family.

Armanto took the gold at the 2013 X Games in Barcelona. She has her own character in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video game and in 2016 she was the first woman to ever grace the cover of Transworld Skateboarding magazine.

In 2017, Armanto was the third woman to make the cover of Thrasher Magazine. That same year, Hawk and Birdhouse presented her with her own signature pro model skateboard.

 "I've put my time in to get to where I am and I've had a really awesome support group and that starts with my parents teaching me by example," Armanto said of her success. "My mom is an engineer and she's in a male-dominated industry too and a lot of her attitude, I think, I have a hint of it."

Last week, skaters were invited to attempt the loop at a promotional event outside Hawk’s company warehouse.

The daring ride has a 14-foot drop and a Hot Wheels-style, 360-degree ramp. The track is 16 feet long. Hawk took it on his Boom Boom Huckjam tour in 2003 but brings it out every now and again when skaters ask to give it a try.

After a few attempts, Armanto nailed the landing.

Hawk tweeted a video of the moment, calling it "an inspiring display of fierce determination and skill."

As for her message to aspiring skaters, Armanto said to never second-guess yourself.

"Being a female is part of your identity so when you see another female doing it it's like, 'Yea...I can do this,'" she said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Tennis player Monica Puig raises money for Puerto Rico, inspiring island as it rebuilds after Hurricane Maria

Miguel Lozada(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Miguel Lozada remembers the moment tennis exploded on the island of Puerto Rico.

"Years ago we had Roberto Clemente, but when Monica won the gold medal – I had never seen a community completely paralyzed to see that match," he said.

San Juan native Monica Puig had just won the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the first the island has won under the Puerto Rican flag.

"Very quickly after the win, my cell phone started to ring. From 50 students, it went up to 100. People calling to get classes so they can get their kids to play tennis – they all wanted to be like Monica Puig,” Lozada said.

Puig calls that moment overwhelming.

"I never saw myself as like anybody’s idol and there are these little kids running up to me saying I want to be just like you when I grow up and I was like really?" Puig told ABC News after a match at the US Open.

Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20, 2017, as a category 4 hurricane. Maria left in its wake nearly $140 billion in damage, claiming thousands of lives and leaving the whole island in need of healing.

In the aftermath of the storm, Puig started an online fundraising campaign to collect donations for people on the island.

"After the Hurricane, I went with Maria [Sharapova] with the money that we set up with the YouCaring account we were able to buy insulin for the hospitals, portable stoves, gasoline for the stoves, lanterns for light," Puig said

Puig has raised nearly $200,000.

"Their faces of happiness: How they came in, took a ball and they started playing before I started to give the lesson," Lozada said.

Lozada still remembers the day his tennis facility reopened months after Hurricane Maria – dozens of his students returned to play.

The effect of Maria was felt in every corner of the island including at Lozada’s El Valenciano Tennis Academy in the eastern central town of Juncos. The facility that had 2 courts and lights to allow for play at night was damaged.

"Even though we didn’t have power, we still found a way to practice… the children would say 'I need to practice. I want to play,'" Lozada said.

Omar Davila’s son Jayden trains at Lozada’s facility. The weeks after the storm, the 7-year old would ask his father when he could start to play again.

Davilia said that the academy’s nearly 100 students wanted to see each other after the storm in an effort to return to some normalcy.

"Sports united them," Davila said, adding, "tennis gave them a desire to get ahead in life, to be better, to help their neighbors. It was something very beautiful and a lot more than before the hurricane."

The United States Tennis Association, organizers of the US Open now in its 50th year, have exclusively told ABC News that they have pledged $350,000 to refurbish facilities and restart programming throughout the island. The USTA Foundation says that all contributions will go directly towards Puerto Rico.

The next phase of the recovery for Puig is helping to grow the sport and to ensure people’s homes will remain safe.

"We are looking at what we can do with all the money that is continuing to come in. And I think we are going to go more into rebuilding roofs of houses," she said.

Lozada and the children of his camp embody a phrase heard so often on the island after the storm Puerto Rico Se Levanta – Puerto Rico rises.

"Maria stopped us but it also taught us that we need to reinvent ourselves. We have to go forward," Lozada said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


USA Gymnastics coach fired 3 days after being hired for contacting Aly Raisman

WCPO(NEW YORK) -- USA Gymnastics fired Mary Lee Tracy on Friday, just three days after she was appointed by the sport's governing body to be its new elite development coordinator. The firing came after a whirlwind day in which Tracy admitted to contacting three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, first offered to resign and then recanted that offer.

USA Gymnastics tweeted Friday evening it had "decided it would be best to move forward without Ms. Tracy in this role."

The dismissal came as a result of Tracy reaching out to Raisman, who is currently suing USA Gymnastics over its handling of the Larry Nassar case.

Raisman was critical of Tracy's hiring earlier in the week, calling her hiring a "profound disappointment." The elite development coordinator is responsible for developing talent for the U.S. Olympic team.

"USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors, & has shown no willingness to learn from the past," she tweeted. "This is a slap in the face for survivors, & further confirmation that nothing at @USAG has changed. What a profound disappointment!"

In December 2016, following his arrest on three counts of criminal sexual conduct, Tracy defended Nassar, but later walked back those comments. Nassar pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in January on seven counts of criminal sexual misconduct in the first degree. Raisman and scores of other gymnasts addressed Nassar in court during his sentencing hearing.

"He had been someone that we all unfortunately had trusted and depended on, so when I was asked about my experience with him, that’s what I said," Tracy told Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO on Thursday. "So I’m not denying that I said that. Would I say that anymore? Absolutely not. ... The man is a monster. But at that moment, I looked at him like I would my dad or my brother."

Tracy posted Friday on Facebook that she attempted to contact Raisman and apologize to her, but hours later USA Gymnastics tweeted out that they asked Tracy to resign, because she inappropriately contacted a survivor.

"In an attempt to move in our journey to more 'transparency' and openness, I need to explain why I have to resign," Tracy wrote. "[USA Gymnastics President] Kerry P[erry] gave me two options, to resign or be removed because I tried to contact Aly to apologize and hope we could work together to make our sport better and learn from all of the mistakes of the past. I was never informed that I was not permitted to speak to Ali or any of the survivors!"

Two hours later, she took back her resignation and said she "was pressured to make a decision" and was now "seeking counsel."

Sarah Hirshland, who took over as CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee less than two weeks ago, threatened further shakeups for USA Gymnastics in a statement late Friday. Perry just took over as president earlier this year, but could be at risk of losing her job, The Associated Press reported.

"As we close the day, I'm afraid I can offer nothing but disappointment," Hirshland said in the statement. "Under the circumstances, we feel that the organization is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership."

Tracy was head coach of the 1996 U.S. Olympics team, which famously won the gold medal in the team competition behind an injured Kerri Strug's vault, and has owned Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy for 25 years. The elite gymnastics school has produced four Olympians, according to USA Gymnastics.

Raisman, 24, has not competed at the elite level since the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but she has not officially retired. She was part of the United States' gold medal-winning team in 2012 and 2016 and won gold in the floor exercise in 2012. She also owns two silver medals and a bronze.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Serena Williams praises Colin Kaepernick for doing 'so much' for the 'greater good'

Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Serena Williams praised former NFL players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid for "doing so much more for the greater good."

Williams made her comments at a press conference after a U.S. Open match at which she beat older sister Venus. Kaepernick and Reid, both former San Francisco 49ers, drew a standing ovation from the audience when they were shown on the big screen sitting in the stands.

“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 at the press conference. “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.”

Kaepernick began a wave of protests by NFL players two seasons ago, kneeling during the national anthem in what he said was a demonstration against racial injustice. Reid was one of the first players to join him in taking a knee for the silent protest, according to ESPN.

Despite leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, Kaepernick has not been signed to a team since he became a free agent in 2017. He filed a grievance contending that NFL owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests.

On Thursday, an arbitrator denied the league's request to throw out the claim, sending it to trial, ESPN reported. Reid has a similar grievance pending.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ABC News Radio