Racism is becoming a huge topic at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, in large part because of the uptick in Black athletes participating in the games. Greater diversity and inclusion has unfortunately opened the doors to more racist critics and incidents, including one involving speed skater Shani Davis.
The Opening Ceremony featured several athletes carrying flags for their countries on Friday morning, but noticeably absent was Davis, who was the first Black athlete to win individual gold at a Winter Olympics at the 2006 Turin Games. He boycotted the festivities after saying that Team USA “dishonorably” chose women’s luge veteran Erin Hamlin, who is White, as flag-bearer for the ceremony. A 4-4 tie between Davis and Hamlin led to a deciding coin toss after athletes from the U.S. Olympic Committee’s eight different sports federations cast their votes for the two athletes. A tweet from Davis disclosed his frustration over the situation, but more importantly, he tied the incident to race with the #BlackHistoryMonth2018 hashtag.
It raises an important question: Will the 10 Black American athletes protest at the Winter Olympics?
Certainly, the athletes have good reason to have a resistance moment. Another incident involved FOX News Executive Editor John Moody mocking the Olympics for diversity and suggesting the game’s motto should be “Darker, Gayer, Different.”
These incidents will likely only be the beginning as the Olympics get underway. With racism rearing its ugly head once again, there’s a strong case for why prejudice can’t be ignored. And, unfortunately, racism at the Olympics is far from a new thing.
Remember when U.S. Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith raised his Black-gloved fist during the national anthem in the summer games in Mexico City in 1968? Smith, along with John Carlos, became known for their Black Power salute, one of the most powerful sports images of the 20th century, The Washington Post reported.
Smith and Carlos may have paid close attention to the history of Black folks at the Olympics. William DeHart Hubbard, the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal in the long jump at the Paris Games of 1924, had a record that was only covered by the Black press in the U.S. When Jesse Owens won four golds in track and field in Berlin in 1936, most Southern newspapers wouldn’t even print his picture, The Huffington Post reported. It is those moments of the past that must still weigh in the minds of today’s athletes.
Davis, along with Maame Biney, the first African-American long-track speedskater to represent the U.S., and Jordan Greenway, the Olympics’ first African-American hockey player, could choose to stand in solidarity to stop Trump-era racism. There is plenty of inspiration and pages that they can take from other athletes’ playbooks, including Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and WNBA star Maya Moore, who regularly champions for women and criminal justice reform. The Olympic athletes can take a knee, raise a fist or just stand for equality. The whole world is watching.