Salute at the 1968 Olympics Snapback

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Salute at the 1968 Olympics Snapback

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During the medal presentation for the 200 meter race at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, American gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos rocked the world with a Black Power salute as a human rights statement. Smith explains, “We were just human beings who saw a need to bring attention to the inequality in our country.” The two US athletes were shoeless in black socks at the ceremony representing black poverty. Smith’s black scarf signified black pride, and Carlos wore his tracksuit unzipped as a show of support for blue collar workers the US. The necklace beads Carlos wore "were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage."

Australian silver medal winner Peter Norman showed his support by joining the two Americans in wearing Olympic Project for Human Rights badges at the ceremony. Norman was heavily criticized in Australia for supporting the American Olympians and was not selected to represent his country at the 1972 Olympics despite qualifying 13 times. Smith and Carlos were also criticized when they returned home to the US being ostracized by the U.S. sporting establishment and receiving death threats. At the 2008 ESPY Awards both athletes were given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award      honoring their actions on that day in 1968.

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