Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete

By Amy Bass | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Whose Broad Stripes
and Bright Stars?

They [the games] lost the spirit of the older days…. Winners were no longer contented with a simple olive fireath as a prize. They sought gifts and money…. The games were finally halted by decree of Emperor Theodosius I of Rome in 393 A.D.

—Arthur Daley, The Story of the Olympic Games

The many classifications of the black power protest suggested that its legacy would not end in Mexico City. One Ebony reader's lament for the failed boycott, for example, saw the action of Smith and Carlos as a call to arms and pledged that “black people of these United States shouldn't participate in the Olympics, shouldn't be forced to pay income taxes, and shouldn't be drafted to fight these racist wars until they are accepted as first class citizens.” 1 In Los Angeles, such propositions had an immediate effect. The city had drafted a substantial and welcomed bid to the IOC to host the Olympics in 1976, but the USOC suspension of Smith and Carlos threatened the proposal. Immediately following the return of Smith and Carlos stateside, Los Angeles city councilman Billy G. Mills, who had been in Mexico City to gather support for the LA bid, publicly backed the banished duo. Of particular importance, Mills pointed out, was “the restraint they exercised, ” which likely prevented the Games from becoming “completely uncorked” in the wake of the press, who “swarmed all over the (Olympic) village like … coyotes and vultures.” 2 The upshot, worried African American California state senator Mervyn Dymally (D-Los Angeles), was how the city now felt about hosting the Games. The actions taken by the Olympic administration, according to Dymally, greatly jeopardized the

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