On this day in 1968, one of the most iconic images in Olympic history was captured for all the world to see. As the US National Anthem played at the medal ceremony for the 200 Metre race at the Mexico City Olympics, American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the Gold and Bronze Medalists, bowed their heads and each raised a single, black gloved fist. This gesture of protest has come to be known as the “Black Power Salute.” Smith and Carlos shocked many with this Silent Gesture, forcing the world to take note of the struggle against racism in the United States and around the world. The Silver Medalist, Peter Norman of Australia, joined the Americans in wearing an OPHR badge (Olympic Project for Human Rights.)
Reaction was very negative in the US and within the Olympic Community, including those who felt that the Olympics was not the place for such an overtly political gesture. Under pressure from the IOC, the men were expelled from the Olympic village and suspended from the US Olympic Team. Both men were forced to return home to heavy criticism and even threats of violence. Very few publicly lauded their courage and their willingness to make such a bold and profound statement, but over time public opinion has shifted dramatically in support for what Smith and Carlos did on the podium in 1968.
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