Tommie Smith

Tommie Smith, John Carlos
Getty Images

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

Leave a comment

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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

Tommie Smith, John Carlos part of U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame class

Tommie Smith, John Carlos
AP
Leave a comment

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.

The sprinters were sent home from the 1968 Mexico City Games after staging a protest by raising their gloved fists on the medals stand. They were long left on the sidelines at the USOPC, but the federation has worked to bring them back inside the family in recent years.

“It sends the message that maybe we had to go back in time and make some conscious decisions about whether we were right or wrong,” Carlos said, according to USA Today. “They’ve come to the conclusion that, ‘Hey man, we were wrong. We were off-base in terms of humanity relative to the human rights era.'”

The class will be inducted at a ceremony in Colorado Springs on Nov. 1. It will be the first class inducted since 2012.

The rest of the class: Candace Cable, Erin Popovich, Chris Waddell (Paralympics), Lisa Leslie (basketball), Nastia Liukin (gymnastics), Misty May-Treanor (beach volleyball), Apolo Anton Ohno (short track speedskating), Dara Torres (swimming), the 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team), Ron O’Brien (diving coach) and Tim Nugent (special contributor).

After the Hall of Fame essentially stalled out, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland pushed to revive it as part of a federation effort to focus more on athletes.

“We thank them for their impact on sport and society, and for continuing to inspire the next generation of athletes and fans,” Hirshland said.

The induction of Smith and Carlos is long overdue. After being kicked out of the 1968 Olympics for their iconic raised-fist protest on the medals stand, the sprinters were left on the sideline of the official U.S. Olympic movement. Their 2016 visit to the White House, along with USOPC leaders, marked the first official event they’d been part of since their ouster in 1968.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Kaepernick introduces Smith, Carlos at USATF Night of Legends

Watch Colin Kaepernick introduce Tommie Smith, John Carlos at USATF Night of Legends

Leave a comment

Twenty-four members of the 1968 U.S. Olympic track and field team appeared at the USATF Night of Legends. Two in particular received a standing ovation before an award presentation.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who earned 200m gold and bronze medals and then raised their black-gloved fists on the medal stand, were introduced via video by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a fellow athlete fighting for social justice.

“Fifty years ago, these two men shook the world,” Kaepernick said in the video. “Their selfless and courageous act had an impact on the heart and mind of millions and have been a huge inspiration to me, personally. They laid the foundation not only for what the conscience of an athlete should look like, but also the world.”

Smith and Carlos then walked on stage at the Night of Legends, which honored the top U.S. athletes and performances of 2018, along with Hall of Fame inductees. NBCSN will air the event on Saturday at 11 p.m. ET.

They presented the Jesse Owens Award, which goes annually to the top U.S. male athlete. Fellow 200m sprinter Noah Lyles earned the honor.

“If he would give you and I a two-day head start, I think we could beat him in the 200m,” Carlos joked to Smith. “We’ve got to lean,” Smith replied.

Lyles, 21, joined Usain Bolt as the only men to break 19.7 seconds in the 200m four times in one year. His best time — 19.65 — was the world’s fastest since Bolt’s last world title in 2015. Lyles also became the youngest U.S. men’s 100m champion in 34 years. He’s the second-youngest person to earn USATF Athlete of the Year after Allyson Felix.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: John Carlos, Tommie Smith remember 1968 Olympics on 50th anniversary