COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the American sprinters whose raised-fist salutes at the 1968 Olympics are an ageless sign of race-inspired protest, will join the U.S. Olympic team at the White House next week for its meeting with President Barack Obama.
Smith and Carlos were sent home from the Olympics after raising their black-gloved fists in a symbolic protest during the U.S. national anthem. They called it a “human rights salute.”
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun asked them to serve as ambassadors as the federation tries to bring more diversity to its own ranks. They will join the team at the White House next Thursday, and also at an awards celebration Wednesday night in Washington.
The sprinters have been referenced frequently in the recent protests, spurred by Colin Kaepernick, during national anthems at NFL games. One player, Marcus Peters of the Chiefs, raised his own black-gloved fist before Kansas City’s season opener.
“I think Tommie and John have played an important and positive role in the evolution of our attitudes about diversity and inclusion, not only in the United States but around the world,” Blackmun said Friday night at a dinner to celebrate the U.S. performance in Brazil this summer.