The real Jackie Robinson was far from the man who had agreed to enter baseball so delicately with the mission to not offend anyone, so his outspokenness on major civil-rights issues was not a surprise.

“He had the success; he had the position,” says Dan Lebowitz, executive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University in Boston. “It was incumbent on him as a leader of men, not just of his race but of men, to speak out. Looking back, it wasn’t that surprising. He was a positive force in moving the pendulum forward in the area of social justice.”