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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

October 16, 1968: Olympic Black Power Salute

On October 16, 1968, athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos -- who had won the Gold and Bronze medal respectively in the 200 meter running event -- held up their fists in a Black Power protest salute against racial injustice in the United States during their medal ceremony.

While he did not not hold up his fist, the white Australian Silver medalist, Peter Norman, supported their protest and wore a human rights badge along with them in solidarity.

Despite the Olympic leadership having made no objection to Nazi salutes during the Berlin Olympics in 1936, the Smith and Carlos protests were labelled as "violent" and anti-Olympic and they were expelled from the games.

Both are now regarded as heroes for their courageous and defiant actions.

Norman, who died in 2006 (Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral), had his career ruined and was not allowed to race again for his country. He was posthumously vindicated when the Australian parliament formally apologized to him in 2012.

The spirit of Smith, Carlos and Norman continues today in the resistance of Colin Kaepernick and now many other athletes who have taken a knee during the playing of the American national anthem or sat out games -- despite the serious cost personally and professionally to many of them at times -- to protest police violence against Blacks and other racialized and marginalized people in the United States.



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