Olympic 'Black Power' Salute Occurred 45 Years Ago Today

U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos sparked controversy after giving the "black power" salute on this day at the 1968 Olympics. 

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John Carlos and Tommie Smith give the black power salute during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics. (YouTube)

U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos ignited controversy when they bowed their heads and raised black-gloved fists in the "black power" salute during the Olympic medal ceremony Oct. 16, 1968, in Mexico City.

While some viewed them as heroes, in the eyes of some they represented a scourge on America. The men were suspended from the team, banned from Olympic Village and expelled from the Games, BET reports.

But both went on to find careers in the NFL and receive awards for their courage, including the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and ESPY Award.

Smith continued in athletics and played with the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL before becoming a professor of physical education at Oberlin College. In 1995, he helped coach the U.S. team at the World Indoor Championships at Barcelona. In 1999, he was awarded the California Black Sportsman of the Millennium Award. He is now a public speaker.

Carlos' career followed a similar path. He later played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 1982, Carlos was employed by the Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles to promote the games and act as liaison with the city's Black community. In 1985, he became a high school track and field coach.

Read more at BET.

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