Not to be forgotten is Tommie Smith’s world record of 19.83 seconds in the 200-meter race at the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games, the first time that the 20-second mark was broken legally and a record that stood for nearly 11 years. Smith would later play three seasons of professional football with the Cincinnati Bengals.
But Smith is remembered far and wide along with Olympic teammate John Carlos for their Medal Podium protest at the Mexico City Games.
Members of the Olympic Human Rights Project, Smith and Carlos stood shoeless on the podium, one arm raised with a black glove to protest the treatment of Black Americans. Carlos and Smith, their Olympic competition completed, nonetheless were suspended by the International Olympic Committee and expelled from the Olympic Village for politicizing The Games.
“It was decided each [member of the Olympic Human Rights Project] would make his own gesture according to his beliefs in the American system,” Smith said 50 years later. “It began here at San Jose State. I take the freedom now to do what I need to do in the system of Constitutional law because I fought for it, almost died for it.”