Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Politics and Sports; The Mexico City Protest

While we're on sports...

I was a student at San Jose State in the early eighties. Primarily a commuter college in the California State University system, SJSU is not noted for too many things. It spawned the Smothers Brothers. Over the years it has had impressive success in lesser sports, such as judo, women's golf, and fencing, and modest success at football, producing NFL players like Ken and Jewerl Thomas, Steve DeBerg, Kim Bokamper, Gil Byrd, Gerald Willhite, and a coach named Bill Walsh.

The two athletes it should be most famous for and proud of and the moment in its history that is most impressive were the Black Power salute at the medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, sprinters from San Jose State who won the gold and silver medals in the 200-meter race, were expelled from the games for their protest against the status of minorities in America.

Smith and Carlos were honored last night with the unveiling of a statue at San Jose State honoring their October 16, 1968 protest.

There are many people who think that athletes and entertainers ought to just shut up and entertain us, that we don't and shouldn't care what they think about the issues that confront us. I don't feel that way and have never understood that attitude. Individual athletes or entertainers may be speaking from positions of ignorance and have nothing of value to contribute to our public dialogue. Others, though, care and know about the things they talk about. We may disagree with them, but they have as much right to talk about these things publicly as anybody else. And if they choose to exploit their celebrity to advance their political causes, actions which, by the way, rarely work to the economic benefit of the people who do this, more power to them.
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