Olympian known for raised fist calls NFL protests 'shock treatment'

Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:07pm EDT
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By Curtis Skinner

GILROY, Calif. (Reuters) - John Carlos, whose bronze medal at the 1968 Olympics was overshadowed by his raised-fist protest on the medal podium, said the recent demonstrations by National Football League players are "shock treatment" for the American people.

Now 71, Carlos applauds San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other players who are using their huge televised platform to speak out against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.

"He's bringing attention to (the issues). And how did he bring attention to them? The same way we did 48 years ago in terms of giving America shock treatment. That's the only way they move, man: is when you shock them," Carlos told Reuters in an interview Monday at his son's home in Gilroy, California.

The 28-year-old Kaepernick sparked controversy when he began the protest by refusing to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" during preseason games in America's most popular sports league. Since then, several others have followed suit by kneeling during the anthem or raising a fist.

The raised-fist demonstration echoes the protest by Carlos and his American teammate and gold medalist, Tommie Smith, after they placed in the 200 meters at the 1968 Olympic Games.

Barefoot on the podium in Mexico City, the two Americans bowed their heads and pushed their black-gloved fists into the air. They shocked the world and many Americans reeling from a turbulent year in the fight for civil rights. They were suspended from the U.S. Olympic team and sent home early.

The demonstration, which Carlos said was about bringing together people of color in solidarity, became one of the most iconic images of protest in sport.

The protests in the NFL have surfaced some two years after a new civil rights movement against police brutality and racial discrimination mushroomed and came to be known as Black Lives Matter.   Continued...

John Carlos, participant of the 1968 Olympics, stands on the campus track at Palm Springs High School, where he is a teacher and counsellor in Palm Springs, California July 11, 2012. Picture taken July 11, 2012. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo