Its 1968, Mexico City. The Olympics.
While race riots are going down in the U.S., there were two American athletes who took a stand.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos become the 1st and 3rd fastest people in the world. They decided to bow their heads while raising their fists which were covered with black gloves. “The Star-Spangled Banner” played as part of a tribute to Smith’s victory in the 200 meter race.
Theres a third man in the photo as well. Peter Norman. Fastest Australian ever at the time. Second fastest in the world. Meanwhile Tommie and John were expelled from the games and received death threats due to their black power salutes. They were taking a stand for civil rights during the travesty of events unfolding in the States. But Peter Norman was standing right alongside them, supporting human rights worldwide. He too, paid a price for his actions.
Australia had similar segregation laws like the U.S. By standing along with two black men was considered a big risk.
It was after the race when Smith and Carlos came up to him, asked if he was a believer in human rights and a believer in God. Norman said yes to both and then fearlessly said that he would stand with them.
Smith and Carlos wore badges representing the athlete-led movement in the Olympics which was in support of equal rights. Norman didnt have a badge and said the following:
I believe in what you believe. Do you have another one of those for me? That way I can show my support for your cause.
Smith recalls being shocked while thinking to himself the following:
Who is this white Australian guy? He won his silver medal, cant he just take it and that be enough!
While they didnt have an extra one, Norman ended up getting a badge with help from another American athlete and then the following history making moment happened.
The daring black power salute took place. Nothing so daring had ever happened before during the Olympics. It was a major political stand taking place in front of millions of people. This was the time and all 3 knew it. Equal rights for all humans. The American Olympic head vowed to chastise these 3 athletes for life.
Instead what happened is a salute to these athletes as a statue was eventually erected in their honor. But wheres Norman? He was left absent to represent what ended up happening to him.
Banned from the Australian team, he quit pro sports altogether. He ended up with stints as a butcher and a gym teacher, while forever being considered an outsider in Australia, and his family suffered the same status as a result. Gangrene formed from a sports injury. The drinking began. Alcoholism and depression followed.
John Carlos put it this way: “Peter was facing an entire country and suffering alone.”
But he was granted a second chance, and all would finally be forgiven. The conditions? Denounce those two black men he once proudly stood next to.
A heart attack killed Norman in 2006. He never apologized nor denounced Smith and Carlos, who ended up being pallbearers at his funeral
Sadly, it would still take another six years before the Australian government could man up and give an apology. In 2012 they finally stated: “…to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying; and belatedly recognis[ing] the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.
Naturally it was way too late.
Smith stated the following: He paid the price with his choice. It wasnt just a simple gesture to help us, it was HIS fight. He was a white man, a white Australian man among two men of color, standing up in the moment of victory, all in the name of the same thing.
Sadly the fight still continues to this day for equal rights. Honor this mans memory by spreading this very important story that has not gotten the massive attention that it deserves.
Read more: http://damn.com/heart-break/