U.S. Olympic Sprinters Protest at the 1968 Olympics

Moments in Civil Rights History

On Oct. 16, 1968, two U.S. athletes used an Olympic medal ceremony to protest racial inequality in America. Sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos placed first and third, respectively, in the 200 meter dash at the games in Mexico City. As the national anthem played, rather than hold their hands over their hearts and face the American flag, they bowed their heads and raised black-gloved fists in a silent protest.