The winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will start on February 9th sharing the highlights with Black History Month. With the date quickly approaching for the start of the games it will be remised of us to not acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the greatest single protest in Olympic history before Colin Kaepernick.
On October 16, 1968 six months after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated Olympic champions Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a black-gloved fist during their medal ceremony for the 200-meters running event, in which Smith won the gold medal, in a then world record time of 19.83 seconds, and Carlos the bronze medal, clocking 20.10 seconds in Mexico City.
Wearing just black socks and no shoes on the medals podium in Mexico City, Smith and Carlos were making a clear statement to the world about the injustices of America.
Smith and Carlos received much disapproval from the audience erupting in boos. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected their political statement and the U.S. Olympic Committee expelled Smith and Carlos from the Mexico City Games. In returning home to the United States Smith and Carlos received death threats and constant criticism.
Speaking at a news conference in Mexico City after the event, Smith said the black scarf represented black pride and the black socks with no shoes symbolized black poverty in racist America.
In his autobiography, Silent Gesture, Smith said the demonstration was not a “Black Power” salute, but a “human rights” salute.