‘Black Power Salute’ Olympian Tommie Smith Honored on MLK Day

A Tommie Smith statue (Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / John S. Quinn)

Tommie Smith received his flowers, and a jersey, on Jan. 15 in Atlanta. – The Atlanta Hawks invited the legendary Olympian out to the team’s MLK Day game against the San Antonio Spurs. During a timeout, Smith was acknowledged courtside and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The team acknowledged Smith as an “athlete, activist and social justice champion.” He waved to the crowd with a proud look on his face and also threw up the iconic Black Power fist pose. Hawks public address announcer Big Tigger said the image of him on the 1968 Olympic podium while receiving his gold medal with his black-gloved fist raised is etched in history.

Smith also received a customized Hawks’ city edition jersey, which he posed with for a picture with Dominique Wilkins.

In addition to his 1968 gold medal, Smith held 13 world records. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, he became the first man to run the 200-meter event in under 20 seconds.

As the national anthem played over the speakers, Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos both raised their black-gloved fists.

“It was a chance to heighten the idea that we must eradicate stupidity called, ‘racism,’ ” Smith said on CBS in 2019.

Both Smith and Carlos were then expelled from the Olympics, and Smith never raced again.

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