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Former Olympian John Carlos on Social Justice Protests: 'Humanity Has No Color'

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2020

FILE - In this Oct. 16, 1968 file photo, U.S. athletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos raise their gloved fists after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200 meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. Some athletes are criticizing the International Olympic Committee for prohibiting political protests on the medal podium. Olympic officials reminded athletes last week not to make political statements at the Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo/File)
Uncredited/Associated Press

Former Olympic track and field athlete John Carlos opened up about the marriage between professional athletes and social justice protests. 

Speaking to Christian Red of NBC News, Carlos said "humanity has no color" and called last week's protests by athletes who refused to play in games the start of a bigger movement:

"This is just the start of things to come. We have their attention. But we don't have their full attention, because, economically, this really didn't impact [team owners] yet. There's no one in an athletic arena right now in terms of spectatorship. Imagine how much they would have been rushing to the table had there been a full stadium or arena and the athletes chose not to come out. It would have been extraordinarily powerful."

Carlos won bronze in the men's 200-meter race at the 1968 Olympics, but he's probably best known for the moment during the medal ceremony in which he and fellow American Tommie Smith, who won gold, raised their fists in the air to protest racial injustice and inequality.

Red noted Carlos and Smith were "part of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, which pushed for a boycott of the '68 Games as the civil rights movement roared on across the United States."

Their protest led to the International Olympic Committee expelling them from the Games. 

Carlos believes current athletes today are recognizing their power by sending a message to team ownership with their actions.

"Right now, as a collective body, the athletes are telling ownership throughout sports: 'If you don't get up off your butt and start to make the right decisions relative to what's happening to your specific race of people that represents your dollar ... if you don't get up, we will,'" he said. 

"Those in power, either they don't see our pain or feel our pain or don't give a s--t about our pain," Carlos added. "Listen, anybody that has a social conscience and believes in humanity, that's what we're all fighting for. Remember, humanity has no color. It's transparent."

Games in the NBA, WNBA, MLB, MLS and NHL, as well as tennis matches at the Western & Southern Open, were postponed last week after athletes opted not to play in the wake of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23. 

As part of the NBA's agreement with the National Basketball Players Association to resume the playoffs, the league will form a social justice coalition with players, coaches and team owners, and additional measures will be taken to increase voter turnout and voting access to the general public.  

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