Stephen Smith: Remember when athletes had the guts to stand up for their beliefs?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"Remember, no one saw Martin Luther King coming," Edwards says. "He was a young, second-level preacher. Nobody saw Malcolm X coming out of prison. Nobody saw Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Harry Edwards coming out of San Jose State. I'm convinced that, irrespective of what we think we see from a social and political standpoint relative to this generation of athletes, there's somebody out there whom we simply don't see coming. I don't think we are wise enough or visionary enough to say that this generation is lost or that this generation can't get it done. Keep the faith."

We know what the hope is. But what about the reality, in light of all the money on the table and its tremendous power to manipulate? Think about those antiprotest waivers, the ones everybody is apparently all too willing to sign, and tell me that any modern-day star will use his or her platform to speak up about terrorism, sweatshops in third-world countries or other unspeakable human rights violations.

Which leaves us with a question: Do we even care anymore? The way Tommie Smith and John Carlos did—and still do?

Read it all. The protest of Smith and Carlos happened 40 years ago this week.

A video which reminds us of some of what 1968 was really like is here.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchRace/Race RelationsSports* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

Posted October 18, 2008 at 4:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. William P. Sulik wrote:

Don’t forget that was also the Olympics which saw George Foreman waving the American flag in the ring.


October 18, 5:39 pm | [comment link]
2. Jeffersonian wrote:

God bless George Foreman…is it possible not to like this guy?

On-topic, it’s lovely that athletes stand up for their beliefs, but even more important that they are standing up for the right beliefs.

October 18, 5:45 pm | [comment link]
3. Irenaeus wrote:

Why was the Smith-Carlos protest so admirable?

October 18, 5:53 pm | [comment link]
4. Jeffersonian wrote:

Why was the Smith-Carlos protest so admirable?

Precisely my thought, I.  With cities like DC, Baltimore, Louisville, Detroit and LA in flames or ruins from riots, the “black power” protest was little more than gasoline thrown onto a fire.

October 18, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
5. Carolina Anglican wrote:

I want to see athletes make political statements about as much as I want to hear more from Whoopi Goldberg and Woody Harrelson.  I think rather than making political statements, it would be more inspiring to see service.  Roberto Clemente is an athlete that comes to mind as a model to imitate.  I recently watched a documentary that had the soccer star Pele’s retirement speech when he retired from the New York Cosmos.  Pele who grew up in a poor family in Brazil pleaded with the world to remember the children who were poor and needy.  I also remember seeing a halftime interview with the basketball star “Pistol” Pete Marovich.  Instead of commenting on basketball, he boldly gave a brief testimony of how compared to knowing Jesus Christ his basketball feats were meaningless.  He died of heart failure the next week.  I would love to hear more of that, but standing up for power of one particular group over another or attempting to make some political statement is not appealing in a sports venue.

October 18, 6:19 pm | [comment link]
6. John Wilkins wrote:

I think it is also important that we allow people to have “wrong” beliefs or unpopular beliefs.  I’m an adult enough to be able to disagree with celebrities who think stupid things without resenting them.

Because currently, it seems that most athletes are encouraged only believe in themselves.  And to make a lot of money.  If they say anything, it will hurt their marketing ability.

October 18, 9:32 pm | [comment link]
7. Jeffersonian wrote:

I think it is also important that we allow people to have “wrong” beliefs or unpopular beliefs.  I’m an adult enough to be able to disagree with celebrities who think stupid things without resenting them.

No one said anything about not “allowing” people to have wrong or unpopular beliefs, John.  We’re talking about maybe not celebrating them.  I realize that might seem a bit harsh to a political subculture where political correctness seems to rule the day.

October 18, 9:57 pm | [comment link]
8. evan miller wrote:

I think the actions of Smith and Carlos were despicable.  They were a disgrace to the United States and the olympic spirit.

October 20, 10:37 am | [comment link]
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