Recognition at last.
On November 1, Thommie Smith and John Carlos will be inducted into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame. Apparently, 51 years after Smith, Carlos and Australian Peter Norman staged a protest while on the podium following a 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics event, all is forgiven. Smith, Carlos and Norman protested a number of things that troubled them about American society including racial tension. Smith won the 200-meter sprint, Norman was second, Carlos third. Smith’s win was secondary. He and Carlos raised their fists while Norman wore an Olympic Project For Human Rights button. On the podium Smith and Carlos were barefooted protesting poverty and wore beads and scarves to protest lynching.
Smith and Carlos were thrown out of the Olympic Village. The International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage was no fan of athletes protesting. Writers from the Los Angeles Times, TIME and the Chicago Tribune were furious. Those publications condemned Smith and Carlos. Chicago American writer Brent Musburger called them a pair of black skinned storm troopers. Smith and Carlos did have supporters. The US Olympic crew team made up mostly of Harvard students put out a message backing Smith and Carlos. Smith and Carlos, who held the ultimate sports protest somehow ended up in the National Football League. Smith with then the AFL’s Cincinnati Bengals in 1969 and Carlos with the Philadelphia Eagles as a 15th round pick. He didn’t play because of a knee injury. Sports organizations and partners had no problem with Carlos who worked for a sneaker company and the United States Olympic Committee or Smith who was a college track and field coach. The protest didn’t accomplish much other than to call attention to what was going on in 1968. Fifty-one years later, Smith and Carlos are linked not only by their protests but they are Hall of Famers.