Do The Right Thing: Mexico City, 1968 Olympics

Do the right thing” is the mantra we at Boathouse have lived by during these unprecedented times. This phrase represents the mindset of doing whatever needs to be done to bring about positive change in your community and the world. No matter what the effort involved, no matter the resistance against you, you do it because it has to be done, because it is, simply put...the right thing to do. Today we applaud those athletes who are using their platforms to make the world a more diverse place and are doing the right thing. 

No matter what the effort involved, no matter the resistance against you – you do it because it has to be done, because it is, simply put...the right thing to do. 

In recognition of what would have been the 28th Summer Olympics next month and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Part 1 of our series tells the story of Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
*Thank you Grace Latz for sharing this story with us! 

 

Mexico City, 1968: Olympic Sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos received their Gold and Bronze shoeless to protest black poverty.

1968 Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze for the United States. At the award ceremony they received their medals shoeless in protest of black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf to represent black pride; Carlos wore beads around his neck. As he accepted his medal, Carlos stated “this is for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred; for those thrown off the side of the boats in the Middle Passage." As the Star-Spangled Banner played, the two bowed their heads and raised a gloved fist. 

Although Smith and Norman did the right thing it was the only Olympic Games in which they ever took part. Both men earned a fame that has lingered to this day.

 

 

Harry Edwards and the Banned Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) Badges

Tommie Smith and John Carlos wore on their tracksuits a banned circular badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), an organization founded by sociologist Harry Edwards to protest racial segregation in the U.S., South Africa, and elsewhere; to protest racism in sport generally; and to call for a number of concrete actions including the banning of South Africa and Rhodesia from the Games; the restoration of Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight boxing title; the removal of Avery Brundage from the IOC committee; and the hiring of more African American coaches.

 

Olympic Sprinter Peter Norman, White Silver Medalist From Australia Stands in Solidarity with Smith and Carlos

Peter Norman, A white Australian Olympic Sprinter and Silver Medalist at the 1968 Olympic Games also wore the highly controversial Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badge on his tracksuit in solidarity with Smith and Carlos. The two American medalists told Norman - who was raised in a Salvation Army family and had criticized the “White Australia” movement in his home country - about their plan earlier that day, after the final. Norman, without hesitating, agreed to stand with them in support. All three athletes were booed off of the podium, and all three faced widespread censure and criticism from both the sporting establishment as the media, as well as threats, upon returning to their homes.

 

Paul Hoffman and Harvard Crew – the story of How Peter Norman received his controversial OPHR Badge.

What many don’t know is that Peter Norman was given his famous badge by the American rowing coxswain, Paul Hoffman. Hoffman and many of his teammates from the American eight-man crew - all of them Harvard students - were followers of Edwards and active supporters of the OPHR. They sent hundreds of hand-written letters to other members of the U.S. team in other sports, encouraging them to take a public stand against racial injustice. “If you are in sports,” Hoffman said, “you have an obligation to use whatever platform you have.” These actions were not well-received, and the crew was formally censured by the president of the USOC, Douglas Roby.

“If you are in sports,” Hoffman said, “you have an obligation to use whatever platform you have.”

 

 

Peter Norman died of a heart attack on October 9, 2006. At the funeral both Smith and Carlos gave the eulogy, where they announced that the U.S. Track and Field association had declared the day of his death to be "Peter Norman Day" -- the first time in the organization's history that such an honor had been bestowed on a foreign athlete. Both men helped carry his coffin before it was lowered into the ground.

For more information on Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman please visit the following resources:

Harvard Crimson article in 1968
Global Sport Matters piece
Hear The Boat Sing "Don't Shoot The Messenger"
CNN on Peter Norman
Wikipedia on the Olympic Project for Human Rights
Wikipedia for Paul Hoffman
letters to Harry Parket from USOC and Harvard President

Have an athlete in mind that is using his/her platform to make the world a more inclusive space? Share in the comments below who you'd like to see featured in our next installment of "Do The Right Thing"


BEST SELLER
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
BOATHOUSE U.S.A. Crew Grey / Small
BOATHOUSE USA Crew
BOATHOUSE USA Crew
$105.00