Jim Rogash/Getty Images New England Patriots

In his closing commentary on the latest edition of HBO's Real Sports, Bryant Gumbel tackles the controversy involving the national anthem, professional athletes and Donald Trump.

"Finally tonight, a quick thanks to the current occupant of the White House for energizing the social conscience of the modern American athlete.

"That occupant's weekend series of racist, churlish and childish comments drew a variety of stunning rebukes and actions, which suggests jocks may finally be realizing that apathy won't cut it anymore. That in conjunction with their fame, they have important civic roles to play -- especially now.

"Those of us who have long focused on the intersection of sports and society have often wondered what it would take for today's athletes to forsake the path of least resistance and actually stand for something and now we know. Many suddenly seem not just willing, but also eager to follow in the giant footsteps of Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Billie Jean King, Roberto Clemente, Arthur Ashe and many others who courageously used their athletic platforms to challenge authority in the pursuit of justice.

"Back in their day, Bob Dylan famously said:  'The times they are a changin',' and that's still true today ... as is the sad reality that certain things haven't really changed at all."

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