I was absolutely astonished to find out that Tommie Smith, the great American track and field athlete, is not in the U. S. Olympic Hall of Fame. … Why not?
Tommie Smith once held 11 Concurrent World Records, an incredible feat that has not been matched today.
In 1966, he was the first human to break the 20 second barrier for the 200 meters "straightaway" race with a record of 19.5 seconds – a record that lasted 44 years!
Two years later, he broke an Olympic record and won the Gold Medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City in the 200 meters ("bend") race with a time of 19.83 seconds in altitude.
However, it is his silent gesture, by raising his fist during the Olympic medal ceremony, along with fellow teammate John Carlos who won the bronze medal, which led to the two athletes being expelled from the Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the U. S. Olympic Committee (USOC) ... and ostracized for many years to come.
That same IOC accepted an apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, didn't hire black officials, and was headed by Avery Brundaged, a controversial leader accused of being a white supremacist and anti-Semite.
Seen as a "black power" salute at the time, this human rights gesture, protesting racial inequality and advocating civil rights, brought great hardship to both athletes in the form of death threats to them and their families. They were also universally blackballed for decades … For what?
"I wasn’t going to stand there with my hand on my heart while they played my country’s national anthem and then go back to life as a second-class citizen," Tommie later said, reflecting on the iconic event. "So myself and John [Carlos] raised our fists in a silent, non-violent protest. It wasn’t for Black Power, it was for human rights and I suffered greatly for that moment. I never raced again, I couldn’t find a job and I struggled to finish my degree."
Even Silver Medal winner Peter Norman, an Australian (Caucasian), wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badge during that now famous ceremony, in solidarity, with Smith & Carlos for the cause of racial equality and human rights. (Norman, too, suffered reprisals in his own country for his particiapation. This summer, he received a posthumous apology from Federal Parliament. )
If a non-American white could see that gesture 44 years ago for what it was, an act of Olympic idealism, of putting principal before personal interest, of supporting universal equality for all people of all races and nationalities throughout the world, then why can’t the U. S. Olympic Committee see this now?
If other American athletes, such as Bruce Jenner, Michael Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Edwin Moses, Jessie Owens and Jim Thorpe, are among the 40 track and field athletes inducted into the U. S. Olympic Hall of Fame, then shouldn’t Tommie Smith be in there too???
In 2005, statues of Smith & Carlos were erected at their alma mater, San Jose State University, with the inscription, "They stood for Justice, Dignity, Equality and Peace." In 2008, both recieved the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for their salute at the 2008 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, with ESPN proclaiming "They were right."
Already a member of the U. S. National Track and Field Hall of Fame since 1978 ... isn't it about time for the U. S. Olympic Committee to finally step up?
Please make your voice heard and help us.
By signing this petition today, you too, can take a stand … and correct a longstanding wrong by seeing to it that Tommie Smith is inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.