Today’s Hoddle comes straight out fo yesterday’s comments, so I’d like to thank those that provided some resources and a spotlight to the stories of Tommie Smith, Peter Norman, and John Carlos.
Ramble of the Day
The Premier League is set to return tomorrow with a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, an initiative that came from the players. It makes yesterday’s discussion of the protest from runners Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and Peter Norman at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
I’m a relative newcomer to this story, but am fully aware that others might already know because it is one of the most well-known examples of athletes as activists. For those needing an introduction: American Smith won the gold in the 200 meter run that year, while Australian Norman won the silver and American Carlos won the bronze. The three engaged in a protest of how Black people were treated in the United States — Smith and Carlos raised their fists, and all three wore a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights. The fallout was intense: immediately, Carlos and Smith were kicked out of the Olympic Village, and all three received negative media attention and death threats. The International Olympic Committee attempted to erase the moment from the official film of the tournament the following year.
ESPN has two videos on the event and the reaction — one focuses on Smith, Carlos, and the IOC’s attempts to squash their voices and the other is about Norman, who faced a particular backlash in his native Australia. Both are quite powerful watches, and the Norman one is particularly harsh — his career was effectively over, and he did not get an apology from the Australian government until 2012, six years after his death.
Their efforts did not go entirely unappreciated. They all have reputations as activists now, and have a statue commemorating the event at San Jose State University, where Smith and Carlos were students. It is a recreation of the Olympic podium, but Norman’s spot is left empty; Carlos did not approve at first, but he called Norman and learned it was by design:
I didn’t do what you guys did, but I was there in heart and soul to support what you did. I feel it’s only fair that you guys go on and have your statues built there, and I would like to have a blank spot there and have a commemorative plaque stating that I was in that spot. But anyone that comes thereafter from around the world and going to San Jose State that support the movement, what you guys had in ’68, they could stand in my spot and take the picture.
The entire event is just one example of how sporting bodies and the public have disrespected athletes’ right to express opinion. Our sporting culture almost forces athletes to keep quiet, which is particularly unfair. Sports can be a form of escapism, but they do not exist in a vacuum because nothing exists in a vacuum. Acknowledging that is healthy for us all, including the athletes we continue to obsess over. I’ll cap it off with a quote from Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, which I stumbled upon while writing this. I think it makes the point well:
Ale Bedoya cont'd:— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) June 16, 2020
"There will probably be the same people that are like 'Oh, quit complaining, stop whining and entertain me, entertain us. But I'm not a robot, I'm a human being that has emotions, that feels things. And I have a platform as well, and I'm going to use it."
Links of the Day
Sky Blue’s Caprice Dydasco will miss the NWSL Challenge Cup after tearing her ACL.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford is fighting to get children free meals during summer break from school.
Former Spain international Iker Casillas reversed his decision to run for Spanish FA president.
A longer read: John Harding on the controversial game between England and Germany at White Hart Lane four years before the start of World War II for The Squall (featured in The Guardian)