The Norman Transcript


August 19, 2013

Athletes have a chance to send a message in Sochi

NORMAN — John Carlos took a stand for human rights during the Mexico City Olympics that resonates to this day.

Almost 45 years ago, Carlos climbed on the medals podium along with Tommie Smith. Each thrust a black-gloved fist toward the sky. Peter Norman stood in front of them, stoically wearing a badge that showed his support for the African-American cause.

Let’s hope the athletes of the world are prepared to make a similar statement at the Sochi Games.

They’re the best hope of getting through to the Russians that their anti-gay law is unacceptable.

“We were willing to sacrifice everything,” Carlos said. “It was not just a gesture for John Carlos and Tommie Smith and Peter Norman. It was for all of society.”

Carlos, as much as anyone, knows that sports can be a potent tool to help address society’s ills.

“I’ll bet there are athletes out there that have as much power or recognition as the president of the United States,” he told The Associated Press. “Now, when I say power, I don’t mean they have the political power to dictate things one way or the other. I’m talking about a power amongst the people. So many people will stop and listen to what these individuals have to say. They will stop and recognize what they are wearing or which direction they are going.”

What would be more powerful than every athlete carrying a small rainbow flag — a symbol of the gay pride movement — when they walk into stadium in Sochi during the opening ceremony?

What would be more powerful than every athlete who wins a medal climbing on that podium with a replica of the OPHR (Olympic Project for Human Rights) badge that Smith, Normal and Carlos wore while receiving their medals at the ‘68 Summer Games?

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