Peter Norman: Unsung Hero of the 1968 Olympic ProtestBreaking News
tags: racism, Olympics, Sports History, Protest, track and field, athletes
In the years that followed the 1968 Olympics, Norman was publicly ostracized and vilified for standing alongside Carlos and Smith in Mexico City, and he struggled to find a steady job because of it. He was given several chances to save his own reputation by condemning Carlos and Smith for their actions on the podium, but he never did. In a 2008 documentary titled Salute (directed and produced by Norman’s nephew), he spoke about that moment in 1968.
“I couldn’t see why a black man couldn’t drink the same water from a water fountain, take the same bus or go to the same school as a white man,” he said. “There was a social injustice that I couldn’t do anything for from where I was, but I certainly hated it. It has been said that sharing my silver medal with that incident on the victory dais detracted from my performance. On the contrary. I have to confess, I was rather proud to be part of it.”
It wasn’t until 2012 — six years after Norman passed away from a heart attack — when the Australian government formally apologized to the greatest sprinter in the country’s history, acknowledging the “bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos.”
Carlos, Smith and Norman remained friends for the rest of Norman’s life, and when he passed away, the two Americans were pallbearers at his funeral.
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