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The Legacy of the 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute

Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a daring and controversial statement at the 1968 Olympics. Their careers crumbled afterwards, but their legacy lives on.

After making this statement these men became pariahs

Raised fists, heads bowed, with 400 million viewers watching. Tommie Smith and John Carlos took this historic stand at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. A raised fist is a symbol of the civil rights struggle in the U.S. It's also widely known as the Black Power salute. Smith and Carlos, who had won gold and bronze, respectively, agreed to use their medal wins as an opportunity to highlight the social issues roiling the United States at the time.

The gesture as the "The Star-Spangled Banner" played was a political demand in a tense situation. Only a few months had gone by since the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and the U.S. was marked by race riots that left around 50 people dead. The Cold War was ongoing, and public opinion was divided over the Vietnam War. African Americans like Smith and Carlos were frustrated by what they saw as the passive nature of the Civil Rights movement. They sought out active forms of protests and advocated for racial pride, black nationalism and dramatic action rather than incremental change. After making this statement, Smith and Carlos became pariahs. Banned for life from the Olympics, they lost their jobs and received death threats.

Look in the photo again and you’ll see another man as well: silver medalist Peter Norman, a white Australian runner. Norman didn’t raise his fist that day, but he stood with Smith and Carlos. The winner of the silver medal for the 200 meters at the same event, Australian athlete Peter Norman, also wore a badge supporting the Olympic Project for Human Rights. That cost Norman his career, too. When he died in 2006, Smith and Carlos traveled to Australia to pay him respects at his funeral and be his pallbearers. 50 years later, the statement made by Smith and Carlos remains an example of commitment for generations of athletes.

Brut.

11/06/2019 12:57 PM

66 comments

  • Stephen M.
    06/13/2020 11:17

    A dignified way to protest.

  • David Q.
    06/10/2020 03:48

    So sad, the history of this country 😪

  • David K.
    11/30/2019 23:20

    I can respect this more than the kneel!

  • Derek W.
    11/30/2019 00:51

    To be BATTERED, differs from being BEATEN !!.

  • Sean W.
    11/29/2019 20:11

    Same people who are against Kappernick for taking a knee..hypocrite much?

  • Nathan R.
    11/29/2019 10:35

    And don’t even get me started on Collin kappernick or whatever his name is at the end of the video there. The guy is a joke and a sore loser

  • David K.
    11/28/2019 18:24

    Why do we give a crap about these two on Thanksgiving? I'm sure they would be protesting the celebration

  • Paul K.
    11/27/2019 01:43

    The STRUGGLE CONTINUES.

  • Marine D.
    11/26/2019 14:58

    This is exactly what is wrong nowadays... The comparison. These 3 gentlemen were champions, Kap is not. Tommie and John lost their career jobs ... Kap quit. Kap. has made more money milking the victim narrative then he did playing. And continues to do so... God Bless America

  • Jenny D.
    11/26/2019 12:57

    A powerful salute. Power to the people. :)

  • Tonyss B.
    11/26/2019 11:49

    RESPECT!!! A real stance with a real message.

  • Richie C.
    11/25/2019 04:00

    San Jose Jose Spartans Proud✊🏼

  • Stephanie V.
    11/24/2019 04:16

    This is how real people expressed their disgust for an unequal system

  • Mark M.
    11/23/2019 17:27

    I commend them for there strength and belief. that being said they were never opposing the flag that was flying. they were clearly opposing oppression of there rights. unlike todays athletes who oppose the flag they are suppose to be playing for!!

  • John M.
    11/23/2019 04:21

    little known fact: the white dude in the pic also lost his medal simply because he provided the gloves for them. he's literally standing there, not doing anything.... guilt by association. Betcha didnt know that, though, didja?

  • Felix N.
    11/22/2019 04:10

    The truth is hard to bear....

  • Donavon S.
    11/21/2019 17:50

    From what i recall the other guys career was drastically effected too, for sympathizing.

  • Liannette T.
    11/21/2019 12:58

    here it is!

  • Luis G.
    11/21/2019 05:27

    Respect

  • Victor A.
    11/21/2019 02:57

    That’s racist

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