John Carlos

(l-r) Australian Peter Norman, Tommie Smith, John Carlos John Carlos won bronze in the 200 meter dash at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, but it was his raised-fist salute alongside gold medalist Tommie Smith that etched him into the lasting iconography of sports. Both men had considered boycotting the Games to bring attention to the still unfinished work of the Civil Rights Movement. The vote held by black US athletes came up short for the full boycott, but the two were still inspired by sociologist Harry Edwards, founder of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, and they offered their silent protest. (Silver medalist Peter Norman, a white athlete from Australia, sympathized with the cause and wore an OPHR patch on his jacket. He was reprimanded by Australian Olympic officials and ostracized by his country’s media.) Everyone remembers the black gloves, but both Americans also wore black socks with no shoes to represent black poverty, they had the sleeves on their track suit jackets rolled up, Smith wore a black scarf for black pride, Carlos showed solidarity with workers by unzipping his jacket and he wore a pair of beads for “those individuals that were lynched or killed and that no one said a prayer for.” The political statement at the apolitical Olympic Games drew immediate boos from the crowd, banishment from the Olympic village and later death threats for Smith and Carlos. Both went on to play football in the NFL and both later became high school track coaches. Carlos has co-written his autobiography with sports journalist Dave Zirin. It’s titled The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World.