Athletes Expelled From 1968 Olympics for Protest Invited to White House

Two black U.S. medalists who were expelled from the 1968 Olympic Games for staging a protest on the podium have been invited to the White House. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the two men featured in the iconic photo with their raised-fist protest at the Mexico City Games, have been invited by the U.S. Olympic Committee to attend a White House gala and meet President Barack Obama, Carlos told Reuters. The invite stands in stark contrast to the treatment the men received following their demonstration against racial inequality. The competitors in the 200-meter track event were suspended from the U.S. Olympic team over their protest and sent back to the U.S. “It was against the charter of the Olympic Committee to make a political statement at the victory podium,” Carlos told Reuters in a phone interview. At a time when the fight for civil rights in the U.S. was especially turbulent, the two men famously bowed their heads and thrust their fists into the air while the U.S. national anthem played. Carlos said he does not expect an apology from the U.S. Olympic Committee after all these years, but he does hope they have a better understanding of the protest now. “Time has gone by to the point where they had to take a look at themselves and say, ‘These guys weren’t bad guys,’” Carlos said. “‘They were courageous enough to make a statement for what they believed in.’”