Duo punished in 1968 invited to White House

Published on Sep 27, 2016 08:54 AM IST
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WASHINGTON: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the two African-American athletes sent home from the 1968 Olympic Games for their raised-fist protest on the medal podium, will receive a long-awaited moment of redemption at a US team event at the White House this week.

The two were invited by the US Olympic Committee to attend a gala dinner on Wednesday in Washington honouring the 2016 Olympic team and accompany the team to meet President Barack Obama at the White House the following day, Carlos said on Sunday.

The image of Smith and Carlos, gold and bronze medallists in the 200m event in Mexico, raising their blackgloved fists, has become an enduring symbol of the fight for racial equality.

Smith and Carlos paid a high price for their protest, not only with the Olympic Committee but also in the court of public opinion.

“It was against the charter of the Olympic Committee to make a political statement at the victory podium,” Carlos said.

Standing in black socks, the two Americans bowed their heads and pushed their fists into the air as the US anthem played, shocking the world and many Americans reeling from a turbulent year in the fight for civil rights. They were suspended from the US Olympic team and sent back to the United States.

It was widely interpreted as a black power salute but the athletes later described it as a “human rights salute.”

Carlos said he did not expect or want an explicit apology from the Olympic Committee.

The Associated Press reported on Friday that USOC Chief Executive Scott Blackmun had asked Smith and Carlos to serve as ambassadors as the federation tries to bring more diversity to its own ranks.

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