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1972 Olympics Black Power salute

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1972 Olympics Black Power salute

The 1972 Olympics Black Power Salute was a political protest by two US Olympic runners Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett. This event is sometimes referred to as "The Forgotten Protest." This event came four years after the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute.


Before the games

Matthews was a 1968 Olympian who had retired. He was frustrated by problems that included having to pay his own travel to the US Trials.


Both runners refused to stand for the US National Anthem. They subsequently stroked their beards, and twirled their medals as they left the stadium. The crowd booed both runners for their display.

Media reaction

The Associated Press noted that the casual behavior of Matthews and Collett during the playing of the anthem as "disrespectful," and described the conduct as follows:

"Collett, bare-footed, leaped from the No. 2 tier to the No. 1 stand beside his teammate. They stood sideways to the flag, twirling their medals, with Matthews stroking his chin. Their shoulders slumped, neither stood erect nor looked at the flag. ... As whistles and catcalls continued, Collett raised a clenched fist to the crowd before entering the portal of the dressing room."

In an interview after the medal ceremony with the American Broadcasting Company, Collett said the national anthem meant nothing to him. He explained that he had felt unable to honor the anthem, because of the struggle faced by African Americans at the time: "I couldn't stand there and sing the words because I don't believe they're true. I wish they were. I believe we have the potential to have a beautiful country, but I don't think we do." The pair were banned from future Olympic competition by the IOC; since John Smith had pulled a hamstring 80 meters into the final while leading and had been ruled unfit to run, the USA were unable to field a team in the 4 × 400 m relay and were forced to scratch from the event.

Athlete statements

"I wasn't acting any differently than I usually do, but we were like goldfish in a fishbowl, in front of all those people. If they wanted me to stand at attention, I could've probably done that, but it wouldn't be me, and I was led to believe that the Olympics was for the athlete. We consider ourselves athletes, not politicians, or marching bands. Our athletic competition was over, and we were both happy."

After the games

Matthews was banned from all future Olympic events. Both runners in fact received a lifelong ban from the IOC and the USOC. This banning likely cost the US medals in the 4x400. Both runners were eventually elected to the Black Olympian Hall of Fame. IOC President Avery Brundage, who gave authorization for Americans to give the Nazi salute during the 1936 Olympic Games, stated the actions of Matthews and Collett made for a "disgusting display." This display by the athletes would be overshadowed by the Munich massacre. Collett went on to become a lawyer. In 2011, Matthews was elected to the USATF Hall of Fame.


1972 Olympics Black Power salute Wikipedia

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