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1968 to 2018: Raising a Fist to Taking a Knee

History is repeating itself through athlete activism. Fifty years after John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their black-gloved fists during the national anthem at the Mexico City Olympics, athlete activism is again one of the most relevant – and controversial – political topics in the United States.

The Global Sport Institute and the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University hosted an event on October 23rd, 2018 tracing a timeline of athlete activism in the U.S. with an emphasis on the iconic moment atop the Olympic podium in 1968.

Dr. Harry Edwards and Gina Hemphill-Strachan, Jesse Owens’ granddaughter and ASU alum, offered perspective on pre-1968 social issues and how athlete activism addressed them.

John Carlos and Wyomia Tyus, who won her second consecutive 100-meter Olympic gold medal in Mexico City, brought their medal-winning moments to life and provided insight to athlete activist experiences at the time.

Lance Wyman, graphic designer for the 1968 Olympics, discussed the role his art played alongside the activism and the importance of compelling imagery, such as the photo of Carlos and Smith raising their fists, for driving social conversations and perceptions.

Paul Hoffman, 1968 Olympic rower and outspoken ally to Black athletes in 1968, added fascinating stories about his interactions with the USOC that closely resemble current rhetoric about athlete activism and bring the program into a discussion about the role of athletes in society in 1968 and 2018.

Raising a fist or taking a knee, athlete activism matters.

Watch the full event on our Facebook page here.