1968 Olympic Activist Tommie Smith Supports Colin Kaepernick


The message is getting drowned out by the method.

Much like when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in protest at the 1968 Olympics, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem has prompted no shortage of outrage and criticism. And much like with Smith and Carlos, those most vocal and vehement in their anger are missing the point.

Kaepernick’s problem is not with the military or the U.S. flag or even the anthem itself. It’s with a society where people of color, particularly young black men, continue to be marginalized. It’s with systemic racism that persists, 50-plus years after the civil rights movement. And it’s with people so fearful of what will follow that they refuse to consider someone else’s truth.

The manner in which the San Francisco 49ers quarterback protested makes it convenient to overlook all of that – a scenario with which Smith is familiar.

“Colin is 28 years old and realizing that things are not quite like what ‘they’ said it would be,” Smith told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “He’s just speaking out (but) he used a platform that many Americans don’t agree with.

“He’s being vilified in how he brings the truth out,” Smith said. “I support him because he’s bringing the truth out – regardless of how done. If it’s not done violently, at least he should be heard.”

It’s been almost 50 years since Smith and Carlos stood on the podium at the Mexico City Games, the gold and bronze medalists in the 200 meters. Smith had set a world record on his way to gold, a mark that would stand for 11 years.

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Source: USA Today | Nancy Armour