Black gloves wave Norman goodbye

American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who famously wore black gloves at their medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, were pallbearers at the funeral of Australian Peter Norman – the man who stood alongside them in their protest.

Peter Norman (L), Tommie Smith (C) and John Carlos at Mexico '68
Peter Norman (L), Tommie Smith (C) and John Carlos at Mexico '68

Norman, who wore a human rights badge on the podium in support of Smith and Carlos’ ‘black glove salute’, died last Tuesday of a heart attack, aged 64.


Gold medalist Smith and bronze medalist Carlos attended the funeral of silver medalist Norman in Melbourne on Monday and paid tribute to the late Australian sprinter.


“What we were standing for… was far greater than any athletic feat ever,” Carlos told the funeral gathering.


“As we stand hear thinking about Peter Norman, think about the greatness of the man who said I stand with you – I don’t stand before you, I don’t stand behind you, but I’ll stand with you.


“He was a lone soldier in Australia. Many people in Australia didn’t particularly understand – why would that young white fella go over and stand with those black individuals?”


In what was one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history and a milestone in America’s civil rights movement, Smith has since explained that his raised, black-gloved right fist represented black power in America, while Carlos’ raised, black-gloved left fist represented unity in black America.


Smith also wore a black scarf around his neck, which he said stood for black pride, with both American athletes wearing black socks but no shoes, representing black poverty in racist America.


Norman, whose time of 20.06 seconds from that race at the 1968 Olympics still stands as the Australian 200m record, wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge as his part of the protest against racial discrimination in the United States.


The ‘black power’ protest at the1968 Olympic Games in Mexico

The ‘black power’ protest at the
1968 Olympic Games in Mexico

“Peter was Australian and he was proud to be Australian, he was proud to run and represent Australia,” Carlos continued.


“But even greater than that he said I’m proud to represent the human race.


“I stand in awe of him.


“Peter never flinched. He never turned his eye or turned his head. He never turned to walk away from that day.”


Smith described Australia‘s greatest-ever male Olympic sprinter as ‘his brother’.


The Olympic movement, particularly in the US, was outraged at the protest and Smith and Carlos were sent home from the Games immediately.


At California‘s San Jose State University, where Smith and Carlos were both students, a statue commemorating the protest was erected last year.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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