“It wasn’t done for a malignant reason. It was only done to bring attention to the atrocities of which we were experiencing in a country that was supposed to represent us .” – Tommie Smith, US Olympic gold medalist
In the 1968 Olympic summer games, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the 200 meter race. Taking the medal podium alongside Silver medalist Australian Peter Norman, the three would exercise their right to free speech and political protest.
As the national anthem began, Smith and Carlos raised a black-gloved fist and held it in the air for the duration of the song. This silent action, which the International Olympic Committee would condemn, intended to highlight racial and social injustice plaguing Black America. In addition to a fist in the air, the two athletes stood without shoes, but rather in black socks, symbolizing black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf representing black pride and Carlos unzipped his tracksuit jacket as a sign of solidarity with American blue collar workers. Around his neck he wore a beaded necklace to represent “those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred.”
Compounding the unity of the demonstration, Australian athlete Peter Norman, who was a critic of Australia’s former White Australia Policy, joined them in wearing Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges. The Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), an organization founded in 1967, aimed to protest racism in sports and racial segregation in the United States. This silent action would prove to scream out for years; spurring public debate on the plight of the African American community and underscoring the need for American Civil Rights and equality on the international stage.
We stand with professional athletes and coaches who choose to take a knee during the national anthem in protest of social and racial injustice.
We stand with those who fight for our country and ensure our freedom to express dissent when we see discrimination and inequality.
And we denounce Trump’s statements and refuse to allow a President to dictate and threaten our civil liberties under the guise of patriotism. - Maureen Post
Photo Credit : John Dominis via Wikimedia Commons