Protest against white rule at your peril

Following their protest at the 1968 Olympics, Smith and Carlos were pretty much banished for the U.S. sporting system in the years that followed coming under severe criticism for their protest. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, Avery Brundage, deemed the protest to be a domestic political statement, unfit for the “apolitical”, international forum the Olympic Games were supposed to be. In an immediate response to their actions, he ordered Smith and Carlos suspended from the U.S. team and banned from the Olympic Village. When the US Olympic Committee refused, Brundage threatened to ban the entire US track team. This threat led to the two athletes being expelled from the Games.


A spokesman for the IOC said it was “a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the “Olympic spirit”. Brundage, who was president of the United States Olympic Committee in 1936, had made no objections against Nazi salutes during the Berlin Olympics. He was known to be one of the United States’ most prominent Nazi sympathisers even after the outbreak of the Second World War.


Back in the U.S., Time magazine showed the five-ring Olympic logo with the words, “Angrier, Nastier, Uglier”, instead of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. As if that wasn’t enough, Carlos and Smith were subject to abuse and they and their families received death threats.


Carlos fell upon hard times towards the end of the 70’s. His ex-wife committed suicide, leading him to a period of depression.


Australian Peter Norman, who was sympathetic to his competitors’ protest, was reprimanded by his country’s Olympic authorities and ostracized by the Australian media He was not picked for the 1972 Summer Olympics, despite finishing 3rd in his trials and thus qualifying for the Games.


Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral after his death in 2006

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