That politics is a taboo topic for many of today's athletes is a stark reality. Undoubtedly, athletes avoid the topic in order to keep or get endorsement deals. It's ironic then, that what's unacceptably bad behavior for most of society, such as cross-dressing, drug abuse, sex scandals, fathering multiple children out of wedlock and even criminality are too often just temporary bumps on the road for famous athletes.
Black athletes today are able to avoid political land mines, but this was not so easily done back in the fifties and sixties during the civil rights and the politically charged "Cold War" era. Jackie Robinson and "[m]any African-American witnesses [were] subpoenaed to testify at the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) hearings in the 1950s [and] were asked to denounce Paul Robeson (1888–1976) in order to obtain future employment.
After the preliminaries, Robinson proceeded to volunteer a condemnation of Robeson. Robinson: "I haven't any comment to make, except that the statement [about blacks refusing to fight the USSR]--if Mr. Robeson actually made it--sounds very silly to me. Negroes have too much invested in America to trow it away for a siren song sung in bass."
The book describes Robinson's betrayal of Robeson as "the blow that took down a seemingly indomitable Robeson."
Paul Robeson was a man of enormous athletic and artistic talents, there is no doubt, but his courage, poise and principles where what he displayed in his statement to the HUAC. Robeson: “You are the un-Americans, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.” Robeson's historical legacy as an activist and renaissance man is intact. In 1961, Robeson was found with slashed wrists following a "wild party" in a Moscow hotel room. His son Paul Robeson, Jr. has tried to get the release of withheld government documents that he believes could shed light on the circumstances surrounding what he believes was an "induced suicide attempt."
In stark contrast to Robeson, Mr. Robinson was able to find gainful employement after his retirement from baseball. He won many awards and recognition. He was as a spokesperson for Chock Full O' Nuts and was named their "Director of Personnel." While there are many exceptions to the rule, in America, traditionally the personnel department is chock full of African-Americans. Coincidentally, executives in the personnel department are very often not in the boardroom with the decision makers of a corporation.
Update 6/26/2014: Edits to clarify the legibility of the passage on Jackie Robinson and his legacy .