48 years to the day & anti-racism vigilance still needed in and through sport

By Grant Jarvie

October 18 1968

In the course of 48 hours, Tommie Smith and John Carlos went from being celebrated to hated by many Americans. Two days after winning gold and bronze in the 200 meter sprint at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympic Games, both were suspended by the United States Olympic Committee for protesting against the racism experienced by black Americans and others.

As the national anthem played the pair bowed their heads and raised black gloved fists to bring attention to the injustices of black Americans. The athletes were stripped of their credentials and forced to leave the Olympic Village. At home they would receive death threats and finding employment became harder.

October 18 2016 

48 years on and the anti-racism actions of Smith and Carlos continue to be echoed by Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who have begun kneeling and or refusing to stand during the national anthem in protest against the brutality and killings experienced today in the US by so many black Americans.

Players from several NBA teams have locked arms in a sign of unity before recent exhibition games. The Celtics, Knicks, Rockets, Lakers and Kings have all locked arms during the playing of the national anthem. The gesture comes at a time when athletes in many sports at many levels are protesting racial inequalities and instances of police brutality.

The movement began when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem. The NBA has a collectively bargained rule that states that all players, coaches and team staff must stand during the national anthem.

48 years on and anti-racism actions in and through sport are still needed in a world that is far from being a level playing field both in sport and society. 

Grant.Jarvie@ed.ac.uk

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