The 1968 Mexico City Olympics came at a moment of unparalleled cultural change in the United States and many Black athletes were placed in a situation that still resonates today: whether or not to use their platform to protest or not.
As detailed in Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics (October 2018) by Richard Hoffer, the games saw prodigious young athletes such as George Foreman, Bob Beabon and Dick Fosbury. However, the most iconic moment of the year’s games came at the conclusion of the 200 meter dash, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos, both wearing black gloves, raised their fists on the medal podium.
Melvin Pender, who competed in the year’s 4×100 meter relay, told NPR about the controversy that followed Smith and Carlos’ protest, said “They was not trying to disgrace the national anthem of America. What was happening was wrong. They were trying to show the world: ‘Hey, we are human beings — we’re human.’ That changed my life.”
Something in the Air is now available in paperback.