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John Carlos explains his iconic protest at the 1968 Olympic games

John Carlos explains his iconic protest at the 1968 Olympic games


Tommie Smith and John Carlos with raised fists on the medal stand at the 1968 Summer Olympics

At the 1968 Olympic summer games with heads lowered and black-gloved fists raised in the Black power salute, Tommie Smith and John Carlos (right), protest the unfair treatment of Blacks in the US.


Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

This story is part of I’m So Obsessed (subscribe here), our podcast featuring interviews with actors, artists, celebrities and creative types about their work, career and current obsessions.

In August, professional athletes from the NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball, soccer and tennis boycotted playing boycotted playing in protest after the shooting of Jacob Blake. Athletes brought awareness to the fight against racial injustice, and by doing so linked themselves to the long history of athletes who used their visibility for a political or social statement. One of the most iconic examples of this took place at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. After placing first and third, respectively, in the 200-meter event, runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists atop the medal stand as The Star-Spangled Banner played. The act was to bring attention to human rights.

On CNET’s I’m So Obsessed podcast, Carlos discusses the power behind an athlete protesting and what his reaction was to the summer protests against racial injustice by NBA players.

“Well, hallelujah!” exclaimed Carlos. “They put themselves on the front line and said race is far greater than any sport. And that’s the same thing that Muhammad Ali was doing back 50 years ago. That’s the same thing I did 52 years ago to make people realize that humanity is far greater than athletics.”

Carlos is featured in the new documentary film Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story, which covers the years that Ali was banned from boxing and what it took legally, socially and politically for him to make his comeback. Carlos cites Ali as a friend, peer and inspiration.

“Muhammad Ali and I were very good friends at that particular time. We were on the same wavelength in terms of dealing with the issues of society. We used to go to various schools and give lectures,” said Carlos. “He was a professional boxer, and when they stripped him of his title, it was very difficult for him to feed his family. Aside from the money, just think about all the obscenities that he had to deal with from people that were not in his camp based on his religion and political beliefs.”

During our interview, Carlos discusses his 1968 Olympic games protest, Ali’s legacy and the art behind running a relay race. He also explains his unofficial title as the “world’s fastest humanitarian.”

Listen to my entire conversation with Carlos on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can watch Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story with video on demand services like YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.. Also, you can subscribe to I’m So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo and I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.



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