It Takes Time…

Using the Olympic podium to stage a protest is certainly nothing new.  But the jury is still out on its effectiveness.  It takes time for sure. 

U.S. athletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos raise gloved hands skyward during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200 meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, 1968.
AP Photo

In 1968 Tommie Smith and John Carlos… who finished first and third respectively in the 200 meters at the Tokyo Olympics.. staged the now famous Black Power protest.  Each with the black gloved, single fisted salute.  They wore shoeless black socks on the podium.  Each donned beads.  Smith a black scarf.  Carlos an open sweat jacket.  Demonstrating solidarity for black pride… black poverty… blue collar workers and social justice.  They wore Olympic Project for Human Rights badges.  This was well thought out.

Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos after receiving their medals. (Credit: Patrice Habans/Paris Match/Getty Images)

As a result, the two men were expelled from the Olympic village for essentially violating International Olympic protocol, and sent home to what was largely an angry nation.  The sixties were tough times for race relations in The United States even in relative terms.

It took forty years for the 1968 Olympic Protest to gain traction as an act of courage.  In 2008, Smith and Carlos were presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY’s.  San Jose State University erected a 22-foot-high statue in their honor called Victory Salute. 

In this Oct. 17, 2018, file photo, John Carlos, left, and Tommie Smith pose for a photo in front of statue that honors their iconic, black-gloved protest at the 1968 Olympic Games, on the campus of San Jose State University in San Jose, Calif. Tommie Smith and John Carlos are part of the 2019 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame class that will be inducted later this year. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

It wasn’t until 2019… 51 years after the fact… that the two former world record holders were elected to the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.  Both are in their late-seventies now.  Living examples of just how long it takes.

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