Track & field legends John Carlos and Tommie Smith will forever be recognized as trailblazers who utilized their impact and influence in sports to spread awareness about injustice. Over fifty years after they made the bold decision to raise their black-gloved fists during an Olympic medal ceremony to protest against racial discrimination, the two men are receiving a long-overdue honor from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, People reported.
The organization recently announced that Smith and Carlos would be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. While the two athletes were in their prime, the Civil Rights Movement was at its peak. Six months before the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Although the Olympics didn’t want to have any involvement in social and political issues, Carlos and Smith believed that it was important to use the global stage they were on to spread awareness about racism in America.
While accepting their medals for the 200 meters competition, they raised their fists during the National Anthem; a moment in time that would forever be embedded in sports history and inspire Black athletes to use their platform as a means for activism for generations to come. Their act of protest did not come without sacrifice. They were suspended from the U.S. team, received death threats, and lost endorsement opportunities.
Five decades later, the organization wants to right their wrong by honoring the two men. Smith and Carlos are humbled by the recognition. “It sends the message that maybe we had to go back in time and make some conscious decisions about whether we were right or wrong,” Carlos said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “They’ve come to the conclusion that, ‘Hey man, we were wrong. We were off-base in terms of humanity relative to the human rights era.’”
The two athletes will be inducted alongside basketball legend Lisa Leslie, Paralympians Chris Waddell and Candace Cable, swimmer Dara Torres and others. The induction ceremony is slated to take place on November 1 in Colorado Springs.