Where Your Dreams Become Reality
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Subject: RE: For the Old Timers: What Did You Think of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968
I was 18 at the time and living in Connecticut. I actually knew John Carlos somewhat, since he had made the rounds of Northeast meets right before developing into a world class star. I thought Tommie Smith and his fellow San Jose State teammate and 1968 gold medalist Lee Evans were amazingly talented, graceful, and dignified athletes.
I was already actively opposed to the Vietnam "conflict" and had great admiration for the Civil Rights leaders of the era. I was in my first year of college, off on my own and able to form my own impressions.
To answer your question, I thought what Smith and Carlos did was just fine, and actually rather tame, and I was amazed at the fuss raised over it. In view of everything that had been discussed - including a boycott of the Games by Black Americans, which I would NOT have wanted to see - I thought it was quite restrained, and even respectful ...remember, Smith and Carlos were actually concerned enough to NOT embarrass the Australian Peter Norman, who in fact quietly supported their gesture.
I was enough of a fan and follower of track and field to already think of Avery Brundage as a villain, which he most certainly was for all sorts of reasons, including his preposterous defense of amateurism (which actually extended far beyond any actual payments for racing...check out Lee Calhoun's bio to see what I mean). Brundage's bluster and extreme reaction to what Smith and Carlos did was what offended me. Obviously, I believed the punishment given to these 200-meter medalists was very much unwarranted.
I thought Smith and Carlos were heroes in 1968, and I still do.
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