Nearly 50 years after the organization expelled controversial sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos from the Summer Olympics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is bestowing its highest honor on two iconic civil rights activists.
The two will be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Smith and Carlos were kicked out of Olympic Village and sent home from the 1968 Mexico City Games after staging a protest by raising their gloved fists on the medals stand after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200 meter run at the Summer Olympic Games.
Australian silver medalist Peter Norman is also assembled with the athletes on the podium in the now iconic photo of Smith and Carlos bringing attention to Black poverty and oppression with their Black Power salute.
The two were placed on suspension for turning the ceremony into a political statement and have worked hard over the years to remain in the USOC’s good graces, per San Francisco Chronicle. Although they’ve been denied employment in various ways, the federation has made efforts to welcome them back inside the family in recent years, NBC Sports reports.
Meanwhile, neither man has ever expressed regret over their statement at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Games.
“What I did was right 48 years ago, and 48 years later it has proven to be right,” Carlos told the Telegraph in 2016. “In 1968, we were on a program for humanity, and we are still on the same program today.”
Supporters agree that the organization’s recognition of these two men is long overdue.
“It sends the message that maybe we had to go back in time and make some conscious decisions about whether we were right or wrong,” Carlos said. “They’ve come to the conclusion that, ‘Hey man, we were wrong. We were off-base in terms of humanity relative to the human rights era.’”
According to NBC Sports, the rest of the class includes: Candace Cable, Erin Popovich, Chris Waddell (Paralympics), Lisa Leslie (basketball), Nastia Liukin (gymnastics), Misty May-Treanor (beach volleyball), Apolo Anton Ohno (short track speedskating), Dara Torres (swimming), the 1998 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team), Ron O’Brien (diving coach) and Tim Nugent (special contributor).
The class will be inducted at a ceremony in Colorado Springs on Nov. 1. This will be the first class inducted since 2012.