ESPN announced today (January 24) that two of its properties, The Undefeated and ESPN The Magazine, partnered for the magazine’s latest issue on the “State of the Black Athlete.” The Undefeated previewed the print issue, which hits newsstands this Friday (January 26), online today. 

The featured pieces include an introductory article from The Undefeated editor in chief Kevin Merida, which opens with the issue’s defining question: “What does it mean to be Black and play sports?

“We are witnessing an extraordinary period of activism in sports, one driven by Black athletes, but we also are watching some of the greatest sports stars on the planet show off their most undervalued asset: their minds,” Merida writes. “They’re tackling public policy issues, trekking to Capitol Hill, producing documentaries and books, and otherwise engaging in thoughtful contemplation about how best to use their influence.”

The Undefeated and ESPN turned to several prominent Black athletes to write about their personal, political and social justice concerns. New England Patriots player Martellus Bennett addresses the hypocrisy and racism directed at Black players who protest for racial justice via a series of illustrations. He explains his artwork with the following preface: 

To me, it seemed as if any athlete who signed up to protest or speak out on inequalities on one of the largest platforms in the world ended up with a target on their backs. Peaceful protests by Black athletes led to them being attacked by the organizations, fans and even teammates they played for and with. With all of this happening, they still had to find a way to perform at a high level both for those very people spewing hate and their own livelihoods.

U.S. Olympian fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad issued a call to her teammates to fight racism through their platfoms: 

We stand at a particularly divisive time in American history, where Black and Brown bodies are still denied basic human rights simply for the color of our skin, and we as athletes must not fear using our voices to fight for justice and an end to bigotry. We each have the power to change the narrative, as leaders in the movement and as allies for our teammates. For guidance, let us look to predecessors like Muhammad Ali and John Carlos, who risked everything. Let us look to allies who have been largely forgotten by history, like Peter Norman, and to modern heroes like Colin Kaepernick, Serena Williams, Megan Rapinoe and so many women of the WNBA. Today, and every day, we must continue to fight and recommit ourselves to Martin Luther King’s vision and be inspired by his words: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

Other contributors include Golden State Warriors player Kevin Durant, who wrote about his experiences growing in a predominantly Black Maryland town, and Connecticut Sun star Chiney Ogwumike, who discussed her upbringing in a Nigerian immigrant family.

These and more essays are available at TheUndefeated.com.