Back in the 1968 Olympics, sprinter Tommy Smith (center) and his teammate John Carlos (right) made a statement about human rights on the award podium. Because of those fists raised in the black power salute, the International Olympics Committee stripped them of their gold and bronze medals. Because of the controversy around the Sochi Olympics, Smith said athletes need to “make their own minds up,” and figure out if loosing their medal is worth the statement.
“They (the IOC) counseled me into what I should or should not do. I did what I thought and I suffered the consequences,” Smith said. “It’s simple and clear: If the IOC says no and they do (protest) they suffer the consequences. One way or the other. The IOC is the grandmaster of the Olympic Games – not the athletes.”
[...]But Smith suggested that athletes have a better chance of effecting change if they band together.
“Masses change things. Individuals are destroyed. Like what happened to me,” he said. “The masses will change things. Otherwise we wouldn’t have presidents, we would have chaos.”
Not that Smith is particularly friendly towards the GLBT movement, saying ”Do I approve of it? I don’t believe so, because I believe in the Bible and it doesn’t really give leeway in this.” Smith continued, “But there are people who believe in it because that is their belief and I respect that belief.”
I’d like to revisit what Smith said about the masses. It’s true. We’re only getting somewhere with marriage equality because we have spoken up to the masses, broke their chain of ignorance, and brought them to our side. Do we know of any GLBT or allied athletes who are willing to make that sacrifice? Because they need our support, and those who are even considering it need our support.
We can affect great change, we just have to try.
Read the full article with Smith at the Huffington Post.