On October 18, 1968, American sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-glove-covered fists to give the black power salute as stood on the podium to receive their gold and bronze medals at the Olympic Games in Mexico City. They were both suspended by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Their intention was to bring international attention to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The teammates from San Jose State University were told they should boycott the games like other black athletes but Harry Edwards, a sociologist at their school influenced the track stars to use their admittance to the Olympics as an outlet to let the world know a change needed to be made.
“Smith later told the media that he raised his right, black-glove-covered fist in the air to represent black power in America while Carlos’ left, black-covered fist represented unity in black America.” –infoplease.com
This highly controversial moment in Olympic history was praised by supporters who said it was moving and motivational while opponents to the Civil Rights Movement saw it as militaristic and threatening.
Peter Norman, the Australian silver medalist of the 200 meter sprint in 1968 showed his support later that evening by wearing a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights.
Athletes in the 1960’s used their position as public figures to make statements about race and gender equality, and they still do today. Many athletes still use the international media outlet created around the Olympic Games as a means to get their message across they don’t do anything drastic and they don’t get suspended (at least not by the IOC).
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