JOHN CARLOS AND I RAN TOGETHER on the same team only twice in our lives. The second time was on the Olympic team in Mexico City. The first was not at San Jose State, because we were together at school for one academic year, 1966–67, and that was the year after John transferred from East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas. Then and now, NCAA rules dictate that a transfer has to complete a full academic year before becoming eligible to compete at his new school. If not for that rule, San Jose State would have had Tommie Smith, Lee Evans, and John Carlos on the same team, the same track, together. Can you imagine Carlos, Evans, and Smith on the mile relay? I don’t want to be disrespectful, but we could have gotten a person in a wheelchair for the fourth leg and still broken a world record. Even though we never had a chance to team up that way, we knew Carlos was a force to be reckoned with later.
We all did run together during the summer, for the Santa Clara Valley Youth Village track club in San Jose. I had been running for them in the summer since I’d arrived at school as a freshman in 1963; Lee joined later and then John. We were too good for that club. It had been all white until we track runners arrived and made it world class. The officials who ran Santa Clara Valley Youth Village couldn’t stand the pressure of black athletes representing them. The victory stand in Mexico City, along with the involvement of all of us in the Olympic Project for Human Rights, was the last straw. That year, they shut down the track club and started a swim club—and began sending their white athletes to the Olympics in the place of their black athletes. I had thought that I was the only one who believed that Santa Clara Valley Youth Village did it that way for that reason, until I heard John say the same thing at one of the panels the day we were honored on San Jose State’s campus in 2003.