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History As It Happens

Jul 8, 2021

It is an iconic Olympic moment that resonates in our current climate of racial activism. At the summer games in Mexico City in 1968, American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner as they stood on the awards podium, the “Black Power salute.” If that stands out as the most memorable act of political protest in Olympic history, it was also part of a long tradition of Black activism and sports. Politics and sports have always mixed, and the 2021 summer games in Tokyo will be no different. From Jesse Owens to Jackie Robinson, from Lew Alcindor (who would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) to Mohammad Ali, athletes have fought for their causes while winning medals and championships.