Tommie Smith, John Carlos weigh in on potential athlete demonstrations at Tokyo Olympics

Tommie Smith, John Carlos
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Tommie Smith, who stood on the top step of the 1968 Olympic 200m podium, his black-gloved right fist raised, hopes that all athletes can learn from the history made that night in Mexico City.

“Think first before you act,” Smith recently told an NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Then move with the justice of freedom. Move with the idea of we are one.”

When Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos raised their fists, wearing Olympic Project for Human Rights buttons along with Australian silver medalist Peter Norman, they were calling attention to people being oppressed around the world.

“What we stood for in 1968, here we are in 2020, and it’s come full circle back to what we said,” Carlos told NBC Sports track and field analyst Ato Boldon. “What you’ve seen, not only here in the United States but worldwide, and that is a rainbow coalition and that is humanity live and in living color.”

U.S. athletes recently either raised a first or kneeled on a podium at the Pan American Games last summer. In summer 2021, it’s possible that athletes make similar demonstrations at the Tokyo Games.

The Olympic Charter states that protests and demonstrations — including “of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling” — are currently not permitted. IOC President Thomas Bach said last week that the IOC Athletes’ Commission will talk with athletes around the world to explore how Olympians can express themselves at the Games while keeping the Olympic Charter in mind.

Carlos, who turned 75 on June 5, supports athlete demonstrations done respectfully.

“As long as you don’t do an obscene statement,” he said. “I think you earned your right, as an Olympian, a guy that sacrificed so much to do so much for so many in order just to have that medal.

“As long as it’s not distasteful, and I don’t think the Olympic Committee, international or national, would have the right to take your 15 minutes out of the sun and tell you what you can and what you can’t do.”

Smith said he wouldn’t be disappointed if there were no athlete protests in Tokyo.

“I would be disappointed if I see something and think that someone else told them to do it,” said Smith, who turned 76 on June 6. “It has to come from their heart to do it for the people.”

Smith said that the reaction to the killing of George Floyd brought back the feelings he had on the podium in Mexico City, according to The New York Times. Smith and Carlos were sent home from the Olympics for the demonstration.

“All I did was stand there with a fist in the air,” Smith said, according to the newspaper. “It was a cry for freedom. And now people are beginning to throw a right fist up and throw it up for different reasons, but now they have the freedom to do it.”

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MORE: Smith, Carlos remember Olympic protest on 50th anniversary

Germany goes 1-2 at bobsled worlds; Kaillie Humphries breaks medals record

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Kim Kalicki and Lisa Buckwitz gave Germany a one-two in the world bobsled championships two-woman event, while American Kaillie Humphries earned bronze to break the career medals record.

Kalicki, who was fourth at last year’s Olympics and leads this season’s World Cup standings, edged Buckwitz by five hundredths of a second combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Humphries, with push athlete Kaysha Love, was 51 hundredths behind.

Olympic champion Laura Nolte was in third place after two runs but crashed in the third run.

Humphries, 37 and a three-time Olympic champion between two-woman and monobob, earned her eighth world championships medal in the two-woman event. That broke her tie for the record of seven with retired German Sandra Kiriasis. Humphries is also the most decorated woman in world championships monobob, taking gold and silver in the two times it has been contested.

Humphries rolled her ankle after the first day of last week’s monobob, plus took months off training in the offseason while also doing two rounds of IVF.

“I chose to continue the IVF journey through the season which included a Lupron Depot shot the day before this race began,” she posted after her monobob silver last weekend. “My weight and body fluctuating all year with hormones, it was a battle to find my normal while competing again. I’m happy with this result, I came into it wanting a podium and we achieved it as a team.”

Love, who was seventh with Humphries in the Olympic two-woman event, began her transition to become a driver after the Games.

Worlds finish Sunday with the final two runs of the four-man event.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.