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Tommie Smith Is Selling Gold Medal

By Ericka Blount Danois on Oct 14th 2010 1:29PM

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Forty-two years after Tommie Smith (pictured middle) protested racism, poverty and represented black pride with his Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, he is selling his symbolic gold medal.

Smith, 66, has put his medal and cherry-red Puma running shoes up for auction at New York-based M.I.T. Memorabilia, with a starting bid of $250,000. The sale is scheduled to close Nov. 4th.Two years ago, Smith gave 2008 Olympic triple gold winner Usain Bolt one of his shoes from the 1968 Olympics as a birthday gift. Who can fault him for not being sentimental about the accoutrements that came with winning that medal?

After winning the 200-meter dash finals in 19.83 seconds, it was the first time the 20-second barrier was broken. It was after this win, he; Australia’s Peter Norman, who came in second with a time of 20.07 seconds; and John Carlos, who came in third with 20.10 seconds, chose to use their platform, where all the world was watching, for protest.

The two U.S athletes received their medals shoeless, but they wore black socks to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride, while Carlos had his tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with all blue collar workers in the United States and wore a necklace of beads. At the time, Carlos said:

“[This was] for those individuals that were lynched or killed and that no one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the Middle Passage.”

All three athletes wore Olympic Project for Human Rights badges. As the Star Spangled Banner played in the background, the two U.S. athletes delivered the Black Power salute with their heads bowed.

The result was a firestorm of criticism from mainstream media around the world. Death threats continue for both Smith and Carlos until this day, said co-author David Steele of Smith’s autobiography “Silent Gesture.”

They both continued in sports afterward, playing for the NFL and both eventually serving as coaches for track and field for high school and Olympic teams.

The Australian, Norman, was reprimanded by his country’s Olympic authorities and ostracized by the Australian media. He was NOT picked for the 1972 Summer Olympic games, despite finishing third in trials. Eventually he tore his Achilles tendon, became depressed and began drinking. He died in 2006 and Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral.

The stand that Smith, Norman and Carlos took in 1968 is forever etched in the consciousness of our society. It was a symbolic silent gesture for what was right. Smith can sell whatever trinkets came with his win for whatever price he pleases, but the statement they made … is priceless.

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