Tommie Smith, 1968 Olympian, Protests and Games Negotiations


When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists at the medal stand at the Mexico City Games to protest oppression by Black Americans, the International Olympic Committee and athletic federations try to restrain what they see as political demonstrations.

Time The USOPC said in December that it would no longer punish athletes who protested.The IOC reaffirmed that protests are prohibited during Olympic events or the medal stand. Smith said in a recent interview that this rule will be put to the test when the Tokyo Games start on Friday, as athletes everywhere have woken up since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Women’s soccer players for England, Chile, Sweden and the United States he knelt before his games On Wednesday, one fell below relaxed IOC rule This allows for demonstrations before the competition starts.

in a wide-ranging discussion after its publication “With Arms Drawn” a documentary Smith said about his life that the IOC’s attempts to silence athletes were fruitless.

This interview has been summarized and lightly edited for clarity.

Does the USOPC’s stance on athlete protests encourage you?

Smith: We see what is happening at the Olympic Games right now from conversations we have with children trying to do something that has not been done before. It’s going to happen. This is how we will proceed. I firmly believe that this is an idea, a progression in the process.

Why does the IOC still oppose protests on the medal podium?

ā€œIā€ is very important to the IOC. This is international. They are trying desperately to keep the border where they can be in control. They think that if they lose control, everything will turn upside down. In most of my conversations, I say that when something goes wrong, it needs to be rearranged. This rewiring is not what they want. They want their traditional endeavors, which they now have, to advance by controlling all nations.

Do you think their policies will deter athletes from expressing themselves in Tokyo, Beijing or elsewhere?

A logical thought that there would be some kind of change. I think we will see a change in things in the next three weeks. I don’t know from whom. That’s why the future is so important.

The athletes knelt, raised their fists, and finally, American hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned her back from the flag to convey a message. Do you believe that one movement is stronger than another?

I have never thrown a stone and hid my hand. Yes, there are differences in the different ways you protest on certain issues. I believe some are different from others. Mine was quiet. I called it a silent protest or a silent gesture. Gwen, the WNBA, they’re phenomenal. This is so hard.

Have you spoken to any member of the US Olympic team?

I talked to one or two athletes, but I didn’t direct him to a position. I give them ideas about the brain and mind on the science of matter, concentration and speed. One athlete I’m particularly interested in is currently the fastest person in the 200 meters in America. He’s got a coach, he’s got a family, he’s got a beautiful family and a brother who’s by his side This is the only person I contacted to say hello as I don’t want to interfere. Even then, even when things happen because they said something, they are the ones who have to stand up and defend what they believe, the rights they think have been taken away.


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