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John Carlos’ Silent Protest and His Legacy in Track & Field

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John Carlos entered Olympic history at the 1968 Games in Mexico after he took part in the black power salute alongside Tommie Smith. He was disturbed by what was going on in the society and used his voice to highlight those issues. Carlos was a bronze medalist and afterwards, went into the National Football League (NFL) and the Canadian Football League before retirement. Here’s his full story.

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John Carlos’ Early Life

spotcovery-John Carlos’ Silent Protest and His Legacy in Track & Field
John Carlos making a speech. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-3.0

John Carlos was a promising student in school. He participated in the 4 by 400m and helped his school, East Texas State University (ETSU), to get to the Lone Star Conference. He moved to San Jose State University where he worked with Llyod Winter. 

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Professional Career

John Carlos talking about the 1968 protest. Video Credit: AJ+

Carlos’ career was overshadowed by his 1968 protest alongside Tommie Smith. Before that, he won the 200m in the Olympic trials in a world record time, but his record wasn’t officially recognized. During the games, he crossed the finishing line in third place.

During the award ceremony, Carlos took a stance that changed the trajectory of his career forever. Before the games, he and Tommie Smith unsuccessfully called for a boycott of the game. 

As a result, they silently protested during the award ceremony by raising their fists and only wearing black socks. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) judged his actions to be political and called for his suspension. 

Initially, the U.S. Olympic team refused to cooperate with the IOC but later suspended him after they were threatened with a total ban. 

Years after, Carlos explained why he took part in the black salute protest. Speaking to TMJ4.com, he said he wanted to make a statement. Additionally, his background was a huge motivating factor, as his parents are American immigrants from Cuba. 

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Athletics Record

John Carlos was a world-class sprinter. He equaled the 100-yard and led his university to the NCAA Championship with victories in 100 and 200-yard races. 

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In the 1967 Pan American Games, he clinched gold in the 200 meters and ran world bests in the indoor 60 and 200 yards dash. 

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Change of Career

In 1970, John Carlos joined the NFL after the Philadelphia Eagles picked him as a 15th-round selection. However, he suffered a knee injury and never played in the league. He played for the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League for one year and then retired from sports. 

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Awards & Recognition

For his impact on track & field, John Carlos was inducted into the Track & Field Hall of Fame.

He also received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage and was the torchbearer for the Human Rights Torch. 

John Carlos sacrificed his career for the greater good. He stood up to the injustices and called out different organizations, including the IOC, for a more equal and fair society. He still made an impact in his track & field career by breaking records. Today, he’s recognized as an iconic sports figure. 

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