Tommie Smith and John Carlos made their dreams come true as they competed in the 1968 Summer Olympic Games. Making the most of his moment in the spotlight, Smith won a gold medal in the 200-meter dash by a running world-record time of 19.83 seconds. Following closely behind, Carlos earned a bronze medal by finishing with a time of 20.10 seconds. As the two men headed to the podium to receive their medals, they made a decision that would bind them together forever. With the world watching and the national anthem playing, Carlos and Smith raised their fists in protest of the social injustices Black communities faced in America and around the world. The two men were later stripped of their medals, but their point was made. Fifty-three years later, Carlos and Smith are still fighting against injustice in America and around the world.
Led by former Olympic medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith, a group of more than 150 Olympic athletes, educators and activists have signed a petition demanding the International Olympic Committee remove a rule that bars Olympians from protesting in competition and on the medal stand.
"We do not believe the changes made reflect a commitment to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right nor to racial and social justice in global sports," the letter reads.
"Staying neutral means staying silent, and staying silent means supporting ongoing injustice."
The IOC made a slight change to Rule 50 prior to the start of the Tokyo Olympics. Athletes are now allowed to engage in political demonstrations prior to the start of a game or match. This rule change allowed for players from five Olympic soccer teams to kneel before their first games. However, protesting during competition and on the medal stand is still prohibited. Moreover, gear that dons the phrase, "Black Lives Matter" is still barred as well. According to the IOC, they made these decisions based on a survey conducted by the athletes' commission that found widespread support for Rule 50.
"The report provides no information on racial/ethnic demographics or insights into the research instrument used and steps taken to strengthen the validity and trustworthiness of the data," the letter added.
Through two days of Olympic competition, no athletes appear to have broken Rule 50, but that doesn't mean athletes will not push the IOC's boundaries when it's all said and done.