Thursday, December 6, 2007
Black Power Protest (Mexico)
On 17 October 1968 at the Olympic Games in Mexico, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medallists in the 200m, stood with their heads bowed and a black-gloved hand raised as the American National Anthem played during the victory ceremony.
They were demonstrating against continuing racial discrimination of black people in the United States.
Within a couple of hours the actions of the two Americans were being condemned by the International Olympic Committee for making a domestic political statement in an apolitical forum. Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Games
Smith and Carlos were largely ostracised by the U.S. sporting establishment in the following years and in addition were subject to criticism of their actions.
Smith continued in athletics and in the promotion of equal rights. In 1999 he was awarded a Sportsman of the Millennium award. He is now a public speaker.
Carlos's career followed a similar path to Smith and in 1985 he became a track and field coach at a school in Palm Springs, a post which he still holds.
The silver medallist in the 200m event, Peter Norman of Australia, who was white, wore an OPHR badge in support of Smith and Carlos' protest. Norman, who was sympathetic to his competitors' protest, was reprimanded by his Country's Olympic authorities and ostracised by the Australian media. He was not picked for the 1972 Summer Olympics, despite finishing third in his trials. Depression and heavy drinking followed. He died on 3 October 2006. Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral