This photo of American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos and Australian sprinter Peter Norman has got to be one of my favorite photos ever taken, and today is the perfect day to honor it. It was on this day 45 years ago that the three men made history during the medal ceremony for the men’s 200 meters at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics when their silent protest for human rights was seen around the world.
Smith and Carlos were shoeless with black socks as they stood on the ceremony steps draped in their Olympic medals. When the Star-Spangled Banner played over the loud speakers the two men, who shared a pair of black gloves, bowed their heads and raised their covered fists in the black power salute. While being recognized on a global level for their cherished victories, they seized the opportunity to protest the racism and segregation that was going on back in the United States. Norman, who supported his fellow Olympians, showed his allegiance to them and the cause by wearing an Olympic Project Human Rights (OPHR) badge just as the other two did. The badge, a trademark for an organization that opposed racism in sports, was created a year prior to the games. Smith, Carlos and Norman were all at the height of their athletic careers at that very moment. Unfortunately, the trio was soon banned from the Olympics for life because of their actions.
The back story to this photo, a perfect example of how actions speak louder than words, is captured in a wonderful documentary titled “Salute” (2008), which can currently be seen on Netflix. The story of these three men and their lifelong bond is one that is worth knowing. I highly recommend that you take the time to watch it or read about it for yourself.
Until next time…