Rhode Island College is hosting an Olympic Gold Medalist winner on Oct. 20 in Roberts Hall. As a way to celebrate 100 years of athletics here at RIC, the college will welcome 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist and Social Activist, Tommie Smith, to speak about experiences throughout his life.
Smith won a gold medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Olympic Games hosted in Mexico City. Smith, along with USA teammate John Carlos who finished with the bronze medal, approached the podium shoeless, wearing black socks to represent poverty for African Americans. Standing on the podium, Smith and Carlos with heads bowed, both rose one fist during the national anthem. This gesture immediately caused outrage as both men were leaving the podium, they were heavily booed by the crowd. This led to Smith and Carlos both being suspended from the U.S. track team, and being banned from the Olympic Village.
In the United States, journalists heavily scrutinized Smith and Carlos for their gesture. Smith and Carlos faced much backlash, including death threats to themselves and their families. The salute that Smith and Carlos gave is still seen as one of the most forthright political statements made in the Olympics. Smith risked his career and personal safety to bring to the forefront of American society at the time on a global stage: The struggle African Americans across America faced, and the lack of care from American policymakers to try and fix any of these said issues.
This event will take place at Roberts Hall, in the main auditorium at 7 p.m. Smith has a presentation that he will be reviewing. Following the presentation, Smith and RIC President Dr. Jack Warner will be hosting a question and answer period on stage. This event is free to the public, and any additional questions those interested in attending have can be directed to the RIC Athletic Department at 401-456-8007.
RIC will also be screening a documentary about Smith’s life prior to this event on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. This film’s screening will take place in the Gaige Hall and is free to the public.