US Olympic Athletes Protest Racism

US Olympic Athletes Raise Their Fists Against Racism
Alex Crawford

It’s a picture that is synonymous with black pride, civil rights, and standing up for what you believe in.  It’s picture now that is looked at with pride by most Americans.  What picture am I talking about?  The picture is of John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising their black-gloved fists into the sky at the medal podium in the 1968 Olympic games.  Tommie Smith took first place in the 200 meter sprint for the USA and John Carlos took third.  But they were not interested in what place they took or how fast they ran, they wanted to send a message.

“My raised right hand stood for the power in black America,” Smith explained. “Carlos’ raised left hand stood for the unity of black America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power. The black scarf around my neck stood for black pride. The black socks with no shoes stood for black poverty in racist America. The totality of our effort was the regaining of black dignity”

The next day after the medal ceremony for the 200 meter sprint, amidst a media frenzy that blew the entire event out of proportion, Smith and Carlos were reprimanded for their actions.  The International Olympic Committee permanently suspended them and the US Olympic Committee kicked them off the team and sent them home.

Although at the time Tommie Smith and John Carlos were disciplined by the major authorities in the Olympics, today the event is remembered how it should be, in a positive light.  Smith and Carlos stood up for black America at a time when there was much racial turmoil in America.  1968 was a year that saw Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shot, the Vietnam war increase in intensity, and the Civil Rights Act signed into law.  And amidst all the turmoil and racism of 1968, despite angering the authorities, Tommie Smith and John Carlos did the right thing and made a statement on the biggest stage in the world.


Newport Beach, California born and raised, Alex Crawford currently attends Oregon State University where he is majoring in New Media Communications.  Alex is the host of a sports talk radio show on the OSU radio station KBVR and someday hopes to have a career in film or television.

Tags: , ,

  • Share/Bookmark