1968 Olympian John Carlos, Who Raised His Fist in Protest, Speaks About LGBT Rights, Sochi


John Carlos, who participated in what The Nation calls "the most radical moment in Olympic history, when "he and gold medalist Tommie Smith raised their black-gloved fists in an emphatic show of support for civil and human rights" at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, speaks with the publication about gay rights and what athletes risk by speaking out at Sochi:

"They’re going to risk condemnation. They’re going to ridicule him in the early stages, until society wakes up and realizes that the individual is right and had a right to speak out for the issues that concern his life as well as so many others."

Carlos also has high praise for Billie Jean King and is glad that people of all races and sexual orientations see his act as an inspiration:

"Well, it makes me feel good. You know, we can’t put labels or tags on one another. All we can say is that we’re just human beings. And we should try to remember, regardless of what your ethnic background is, or what your sexual preference is, or what type of food you like, it doesn’t matter. It just matters that we all have the right to be who we are in this society. And we need to keep fighting to make sure that there’s an even playing field for all people that are being oppressed."

Read the full interview HERE.


  1. anony6 says

    I am so glad to hear that John Carlos recognizes lgbt rights as human rights, and supports athlete dissent in Sochi.

    That image above is incredibly iconic, and I hope it can continue to serve as inspiration today for everyone to promote equality.

  2. pedro says

    For something comparable to this to happen in Sochi…an out athlete would have to make it on the medal stand…Do not hold your breath. This is why you can never compare the gay rights movement with the black civil rights movement…These men could never hide their color and therefore were compelled to act…You can always hide your sexuality.

  3. pedro says

    Not to mention that most gay men go to the gym to look athletic for the sake of sex-appeal…but most are not…in actuality into sports or very athletic…

  4. DBAUDIT says

    Sometimes I wish there was a “like” button on this site. ANONY6 said it perfectly. John Carlos and Tommie Smith stood on that platform and made a statement for human dignity. An out athlete making a gesture in Sochi would be ideal, but anyone can speak for human dignity and should at every opportunity.

  5. MaryM says

    What is even better is that even though his act was condemned (and weren’t they stripped of their medals for a while) is that his act had an enduring legacy and he would probably be completely forgotten today had he not made that statement.

  6. says

    All movements for equality has had heroes like John Carlos and Tommie Smith. I remember when this happened and too many Americans did not understands their actions, or thought it was wrong.For those of us this was a defining moment in America for civil rights. But they did not stop there… they have joined in our marches and others since,just as we have. I left Chicago in 1960 because it was not gay friendly.I went to San Francisco and realized gays where part of the beatnik,hippie,flower children and peace marches in that decade and I became part of the early 1970s gay rights movement. Believe me there were many non- gays who helped us,especially Mayor Moscone in 1975. We should never leave our guard down and help all those fighting for the same equality we want and TOGETHER, WE SHALL OVERCOME!

  7. arch says

    The time and place have come for a similar dignified protest about gay rights at Sochi. John Carlos’s words are clear and powerful; let’s hope that there is a gay athlete ready to take up the baton (pun intended).

  8. anon says

    That was the infamous “black power” salute in 1968, which was scene as “sticking it to the Man”, though I doubt anyone really could agree on what black power stood for. Some in the establishment really thought it was a declaration of war against the US and others thought it was a Vietnam War protest. Since then the two athletes have been very coy about their motives lest they have their medals stripped away.

  9. DC Insider says

    Well, I’m not sure “well said” is the correct term. However, the sentiment is there. Being gay is not a “preference” and it’s not like choosing what foods you like or don;t like, but other than his bad word choice and utterly inaccurate analogies, he is trying to say the right thing.

  10. Rowan says

    DC Insider, Britney Spears, Madonna et al say the wrong words ALL the time and they are supposed to be gay friendly icons!

    This guy was clearly accosted, like the media do and did not have enough time to form a good paragraph about the issue.

  11. Leoy Laflamme says

    I’m glad John Carlos was articulate & specific in is support. While Tommie Smith offers advice for LGBT athletes who want to take a stand, his remarks in the USA Today piece make it clear his true feelings & the Bible are in accord:

    ‘The 69-year-old Smith is not a firm supporter of gays.’

    “Do I approve of it? I don’t believe so, because I believe in the Bible and it doesn’t really give leeway in this,” Smith said. “But there are people who believe in it because that is their belief and I respect that belief.”

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