Over five decades ago, Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested racism on the world stage when they raised their fists during the 1968 Summer Olympics medal ceremony, creating one of the most iconic moments in the history of the international games. Now, the pair are receiving the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s highest honor.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the U.S. Olympic Committee will induct the men into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame on November 1.
“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, now 74, told USA Today after the announcement. “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.’”
In 1968, Smith and Carlos stood on the podium in Mexico City to receive their first and third place medals and caused an uproar in their native country to the north. Raising their first into the air to protest racism and discrimination while the national anthem played, the pair added to some of the most memorable public stances of racism during the civil rights era.
Smith broke the world record in the 200-meter while Carlos earned the bronze medal. Shortly after the historic protest at the games, the United States Olympic Committee voted to expel the pair for the rest of the games, giving them a 48-hour notice to leave.
In the years following the 1968 games both Smith and Carlos were excluded from Olympic activities.
The two will be inducted along with several other notable athletes, including former WNBA star Lisa Leslie, gymnast Nastia Liukin, beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, and speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, according to the Washington Post.
Photo: Rich Clarkson / Rich Clarkson & Associates