Tommie Smith And John Carlos Made A Brave Stand And It Almost Cost Them Their Careers
Since the founding of the United States, the African-American population has always been dealt an unfair hand.
They’ve found it to be more of a struggle than it should be just to gain equal footing with others. Individuals who are seen often in the public eye have used their platform to protest in an attempt to garner change, an action most would vehemently disagree with taking.
But if being in the public eye is not the time to protest, when is?
One of the most memorable protests in history was in Mexico City at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith rose their fists in a silence, emulating the black power salute. The men intended to put a global spotlight on the injustice and inequality experienced by people of color in the U.S., focusing especially on the plight of black Americans.
This gesture by the athletes was booed by many at the ceremony. And when Smith and Carlos returned home, they were not welcomed with open arms. They were criticized by many and each received their share of death threats from unknown sources.
International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage ordered Smith and Carlos suspended from the US team and banned from the Olympic Village. When the US Olympic Committee refused, Brundage threatened to ban the entire US track team. This threat led to the expulsion of the two athletes from the Games.
Despite the backlash of their protest, both men finished out stellar careers in the NFL, donating their time afterward to community and teaching.
San Jose State University, their old university honored them with a sculpture depicting their protest. The reason that one athlete in the sculpture is holding up his left and the other his right is because of Australian athlete Peter Norman. Norman let Smith and Carlos borrow his gloves, after Carlos misplaced his pair.
Before his death in 2006, he asked that he not be placed on the sculpture alongside the black men. He wanted the third spot open for those who wished to stand in solidarity with the Olympic Medalists.
If you wish to visit the famous sculpture, you can find it at the San Jose State University campus next to Clark Hall and Tower Hall.
1968 Summer Olympics Protest: