A tribute to black athletes
I had no idea Jesse Owens until I got involved in the trail. Jesse came to the Games in Mexico City and told us, on behalf of the International Olympic Committee, about our protest. He was concerned for our well-being. The house was on fire with the statements we made, and he wanted to protect us. He later became like a surrogate father, and I learned what he went through in 1936 and what happened to the people of color there. Here is a black man traveling to another country even more racist than America at the time. He was the star of those Olympics and overturned the theory of Aryan superiority from the Nazis.
He later told me that everything we do in Mexico City was right and necessary. For Jesse, Jackie Robinson, Gale Sayers, Jim Brown and even now today, black athletes have to go through tremendous agony to make America great.
I told Colin Kaepernick he was my hero – and I really meant him. But I can also watch [athlete/actor/activist] Paul Robeson. He is my hero. Curt Flood – he’s my hero. Look at Joe Louis – my hero. Althea Gibson too. Why are they my heroes? Because these individuals had to go through hell to accomplish what they did.
–John Carlos, 75 years old, won the bronze medal in the 200 meters at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. At the medal stand, he and his teammate Tommie Smith raised their fists to protest racial inequalities in America.