Associated Press
Tommie Smith and John Carlos hold up their fists at the Mexican Olympic Committee building in Mexico City in 2008

Icon of Civil Rights Movement Says ‘Redskins’ Must Go


In 1968, during the height of the civil rights movement, John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised black-gloved fists on the medals podium at the Olympic to protest the racial discrimination against African-Americans in the U.S. And today, almost 50 years later, Carlos is raising his hand in protest again, albeit figuratively, for Native Americans by calling on the Washington Redskins to change their name.

“Richard Sherman made a very valid point,” Carlos said in a column posted by Mike Wise of The Washington Post. “For tribes or reservations to say they’re uncomfortable with you using that name, and then have players say they are just as uncomfortable, and the owner stands there, saying he’ll never change the name? How do you get away with that?

“To this day, there has been no real negotiation or real listening and understanding that I know of.”

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Carlos earned the bronze medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and stood beside Tommie Smith, the Gold medalist, who also shoved his fist in the air in a show of “black power.”

“I definitely think the name should be changed; it’s 2014,” Tre Johnson, former ‘Redskins’ Pro Bowler, told The Post in the same article. “We’re progressive and intellectual enough to realize something like that is offensive. And it’s offensive because a group of people that that moniker represents has said so.”

Eight of Johnson’s 9 NFL seasons were with the Redskins (1994-2000, 2002). The celebrated former player also made one Pro Bowl appearance, in 1999.

DeAngelo Hall is the only other current Redskins player who has spoken out forchanging the name. In an interview in January, he said, "They probably should” change it, but he surmised that it wouldn’t happen for awhile.

Ray Halbritter, President and CEO of the Oneida Indian Nation, which heads the Change the Mascot Campaign, and Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, offered a joint statement on Johnson and Carlos’s decision  for taking a stand against the derogatory name.


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jaytaber's picture
Submitted by jaytaber on
A little known figure from the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City is Peter Norman, the Australian sprinter who placed second in the 200 meter, just behind Tommie Smith and just ahead of John Carlos. Norman, a devout Christian white man, chose to support the two black American sprinters from San Jose State University on the Olympic medals podium, by wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge--an act of solidarity for which he was ostracized by his home country.