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John Carlos part of Team USA council on racial, social justice

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John Carlos, who was kicked out of the 1968 Olympics for a podium protest, is now on a Team USA council on racial and social justice.

Carlos and 43 others were announced as members on Friday evening. The council was created in partnership by the USOPC, its athletes’ advisory council, national governing bodies and the U.S. Olympians & Paralympians Association.

The council, comprised mostly of U.S. Olympians and Paralympians, was formed to “address the rules and systems in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements that create barriers to progress,” aiming to end social injustice and cultivate change, according to the USOPC.

The council will “help us confront the issues of racism and discrimination in sport and society,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a release.

By early 2021, the council’s goal is to produce an “action plan,” identifying areas of improvement and developing recommendations.

In June, Carlos and the athletes’ advisory council called on the IOC to abolish the Olympic Charter’s current rule on athlete protests and other forms of expression and develop a new policy. Friday’s announcement did not specifically mention Olympic protest rules while focusing on the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states in part, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Earlier in June, the IOC said its 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, 75, is one of eight members of a Team USA protests and demonstrations steering committee.

That group also includes hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden, who raised a fist and kneeled, respectively, on podiums at the August 2019 Pan American Games. Berry and Imboden were sent letters of reprimand by Hirshland last summer, along with each receiving probation.

There are three other committees on racism and acts of discrimination, athlete voice and advocacy and institutional awareness and culture change.

The council was announced after athlete town halls, individual discussions with athletes and meetings with outside experts on systemic racial and social injustice in the country.

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U.S. Olympic museum to open July 30, honor 1980 team

U.S. Olympic Museum
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A 60,000-square foot museum that will include a first-of-its-kind tribute to the 1980 U.S. Olympic team is scheduled to open July 30 in Colorado Springs after a three-year construction project.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum will feature 12 galleries that include exhibits on athlete training, the Summer and Winter Games and the USOPC Hall of Fame.

The project was conceived in 2012, as Olympic leaders looked to establish the first full-fledged Olympic museum in the United States. The Olympic Training Center, located a few miles from the museum in downtown Colorado Springs, draws more than 130,000 visitors a year but had limited exhibit space.

At the groundbreaking for the museum three years ago, leaders said they were hoping to draw up to 350,000 a year, though the coronavirus pandemic will have an impact on attendance. The museum is putting safety precautions in place that will include a timed-ticketing program designed to limit the number of people in any exhibit at one time.

The project is estimated to have cost around $91 million, which is about $15 million over the figure reported by The Associated Press at the groundbreaking in 2017. The increased cost is to cover state-of-the-art technology that will allow each visitor to receive a near-personalized experience. For example, visitors will be able to pick a favorite sport or athlete, and a chip embedded into their ticket will prompt specific content to come up at each exhibit. The museum will also have an interactive map that allows visitors to learn about the more than 12,000 athletes who have competed for Team USA.

About $65 million of the building cost was covered by private fundraising. The museum also received $26.2 million from the State of Colorado Economic Development Commission.

The opening comes during the 40th anniversary of the Moscow Olympics, which were boycotted by the U.S. team in a government protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Many of the athletes who had qualified for the 1980 team never got another chance to compete at the Olympics, and decades later, they are being honored at the new museum. Their story will be told at the end of the Summer Olympics exhibit.

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Gwendolyn Berry gets apology from USOPC CEO after reprimand for podium gesture

Gwen Berry
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Olympic hammer thrower Gwendolyn Berry said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland apologized to her Wednesday “for not understanding the severity of the impact her decisions had on me,” after Berry was put on probation last August for one year after raising her fist at the end of the national anthem at the 2019 Pan American Games.

“I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night,” Hirshland said in a statement. “I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them. Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country.”

Berry and fencer Race Imboden were sent August letters of reprimand by Hirshland, along with each receiving probation, after each made a podium gesture at Pan Ams in Peru.

This week, Berry tweeted that she wanted a public apology from Hirshland. That tweet came after Hirshland sent a letter to U.S. athletes on Monday night, condemning “systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States.”

Then on Wednesday night, Berry said she had a “really productive” 40-minute phone call with Hirshland, USATF CEO Max Siegel and other USATF officials.

“I didn’t necessarily ask for [an apology] from [Hirshland],” Berry said Thursday. Berry said she lost two-thirds of her income after Pan Ams, that sponsors dropped her in connection to the raised fist fallout.

“We came to some good conclusions,” Berry said of the group call. “The most important thing were figuring out ways to move forward. [Hirshland] was aware of things that she did and how she made me feel about the situation, and I was happy that I was able to express to her my grievances and she was able to express to me how she felt as well about the situation.”

Berry said her probation, which is believed to still be in effect, wasn’t discussed. She made a point to say that USATF has always been on her side.

“The conversation was more for awareness purposes, and we’ll probably have more conversations this week,” said Berry.

Berry also plans to participate in a U.S. athlete town hall Friday.

“First and foremost, we should and we will discuss how people are just feeling and how people are holding up because athletes in general, because of the pandemic and because of everything that’s been going on, I know a lot of people are in distress, they’re sad, they’re confused,” she said. “I think that’ll be the main point of the discussion. Just to make sure everybody’s OK. Just to see how everybody’s holding on.”

On Aug. 10, Berry raised her fist at the end of the national anthem after winning the Pan American Games title.

The next morning, Berry said the gesture, which drew memories of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Games, wasn’t meant to be a big message, but it quickly became a national story.

“Just a testament to everything I’ve been through in the past year, and everything the country has been through this past year,” she said then. “A lot of things need to be done and said and changed. I’m not trying to start a political war or act like I’m miss-know-it-all or anything like that. I just know America can do better.”

Berry said then that the motivation behind her gesture included the challenges overcome of changing coaches and moving from Oxford, Miss., where her family resides, to Houston.

“Every individual person has their own views of things that are going on,” she said. “It’s in the Constitution, freedom of speech. I have a right to feel what I want to feel. It’s no disrespect at all to the country. I want to make that very clear. If anything, I’m doing it out of love and respect for people in the country.”

Berry also said that weekend, according to USA Today, that she was standing for “extreme injustice.”

“Somebody has to talk about the things that are too uncomfortable to talk about. Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse,” Berry said, according to that report. “It’s too important to not say something. Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.”

NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report.

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