History Repeats Itself: The Protest That Began Over Four Decades Ago


Photo credit: thenation.com

San Francisco 49ers’ backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick has recently sparked a protest among NFL players after refusing to stand for the national anthem, stating that he wasn’t “going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” During preseason games as well as the season opener, Kaepernick has knelt on the sidelines. Teammate Eric Reid chose to follow suit in kneeling beside Kaepernick in the season opener and some Miami Dolphins players decided to take a knee during their opener as well. However, players from the LA Rams, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs decided to take a different approach, standing while raising gloved fists, the same pose 200-meter gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos enacted during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Smith and Carlos’ gestures occurred during the American national anthem as well, unknowingly leading the way for many protests to come.

Successful entrepreneur and businessman Daymond John suggests, “You will never create anything new. There’ll only be a new delivery and a new market.” The context of this quote is centered around the business industry; however, the same applies for any other subject matter, including the NFL players’ protests. The sports in which the protests have occurred and the stage of the protests may differ, but the reason for the protests and their intended messages are the same – to stand against racial inequality and injustices against people of color. So in a sense, history repeats itself, as well as foreshadows the future.

In a documentary on the 1968 Mexico City games produced for HBO, Tommie Smith says, “We were just human beings who saw the need to bring attention to the inequality in our country… I don’t like the idea of people looking at it as a negative. There was nothing but a raised fist in the air and a bowed head – acknowledging the American flag – not symbolizing a hatred for it.”

According to Time magazine, the Australian, 200-meter silver medalist, Peter Norman, stood with Smith and Carlos wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge to show his support during the medal ceremony. Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at Norman’s funeral in 2006. Continue reading “History Repeats Itself: The Protest That Began Over Four Decades Ago”