What was the Impact of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s protest in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics?
The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was the most popular medal ceremony of all time, as Tommie Smith and John Carlos delivered the black power salute while on the medal stand, (Witherspoon, 2003). In Mexico City, Smith finished first in the 200 metres race, achieving a new world record, Carlos on the other hand finished third. Both athletes decided to each wear one black glove and black socks during their victory stand, whilst the American national anthem played, they also bowed their heads and raised black-gloved fists (Ashe, 2007). Peter Norman of Australia came second and also took part in the protest by wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge as a way of protesting against racial discrimination in all countries. This iconic image not only represents one of the most memorable moments of Olympic history, but a milestone in America's civil rights movement, (Gettings, 2012). This essay will look at the overall impact that the iconic image had on the civil rights movement and the idea behind it.
In an Article about sports and society, Bridget Lockyer discusses the 1950’s onwards, as being a pivotal moment for black Americans. As they were increasingly active in speaking out about the injustice of American society; the segregation of black and white; the discrimination black Americans faced in employment and housing; the disenfranchisement of black people on electoral registers and the widespread violence and prejudice they were forced to endure, (Lockyer, 2009). Before marchers, bus riding freedom riders, boycotters and other protesters began their crusade for freedom, the Jim Crow laws prevented blacks and whites from integrating, as black Americans were denied entry to beaches, swimming pools, parks, picnic areas and many hospital, (Crossley, 2013). The Jim Crow laws also prohibited black and white players from playing in the same team. John Carlos dreamt of being an Olympic swimmer during his youth, but reality kicked in after his father had told him that no clubs would take him because of the colour of his skin, (McGeehan, 2013).
The role of sports also played a big part in the Civil rights movement because Civil Rights activists realised that they were able to use sports as a platform to advocate social change and equality in the entire country, (Hollinger, 2013). Nelson Mandela states that “Sports has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does… it is more powerful than governments in breaking down… barriers,” Siekmann & Soek (2012, pg.207).
In 1968 the United States was on the brink of chaos, as the Vietnam War intensified, the civil rights movement raged in America’s cities and Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated, Martin (2012, pg.35). Both Carlos and Smith were involved in the civil rights movement even before they had taken part in the protest...