1968 Olympic medalist John Carlos made an appearance on 95.7 The Game on Monday to discuss Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the National Anthem (audio). He had quite a bit to say in support of Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the National Anthem. He referenced notable names in Civil Rights history in discussing Kaepernick’s actions, and talked about its importance in potentially moving the discussion forward.
For those who don’t know who Carlos is, he is the man on the right in this iconic image. Carlos and Tommie Smith took home bronze and gold, respectively, in the 200 meter dash at the Mexico City Olympics. Prior to the games, they had worked with noted sociologist (and 49ers consultant) Dr. Harry Edwards to organize a boycott of the games in protest of racial segregation in America and other countries (notable, South Africa). The boycott did not happen, and so Carlos and Smith offered the black power salute during the National Anthem in protest.
The vitriol in response to their action was intense, and it took considerable time before they were back in the good graces of many people. Even Peter Norman, the Australian who won the silver, dealt with vitriol. You can see all three men wearing a patch over their heart. That patch was for the Olympic Project for Human Rights, and Norman was ostracized when he returned to Australia due to his support for the cause.
All this is to say, he knows a thing or two about powerful protests. Here’s a transcript so you can read it in Dr. Carlos’ own words.
Good morning. It’s an honor to be here again.
On Colin Kaepernick decision:
Well, you know, my view of him, sitting down for the National Anthem is the same as Rosa Parks sitting on the bus, refusing to give up her seat in the front. Rosa Parks was making a statement. Kaepernick is making a statement as well. Colin’s making a statement as well. And the only way people are gonna come to the table to have some dialogue about this is when people such as he or Rosa Parks, or Tommie Smith and Peter Norman and John Carlos, Muhammad Ali, we come out to make these statements to encourage other people to raise their voices enough that people will have some common discussion about the issues, the social issues that’s been pushed under the rugs for eons. It’s time to come to the table to try and negotiate these ills out of society.
On reaction to Carlos, Tommie Smith after the medal ceremony vs. how they view it now:
Well, you might say … at the time it was a million times worse for us when we made our statement, but yet it’s still the same demons that came towards him, the haters that don’t really understand, and a lot of them don’t particularly care to understand from the plight of a person of color, for how he’s treated and how he feels here in the United States. If you take into account, he probably feels like the soldiers, the black soldiers that fought in the first World War that had to be in a segregated army, and they had to have the white officers come tell them what bridge they need to take, or what hill they need to hit, and so forth like that. Like we were not capable of doing these things. That’s all it is. It’s a matter of people saying they are frustrated with the fact that black people are starting to stand on their own two feet, and recognize that, hey, we need to make change, and the only way we’re going to make change is we getting off our butt to make a statement about the ills of society, once again.
On Kaepernick protest being compared to Mexico City protest:
Well, you know, I’ve been saying for the last six months, that Kaepernick, and the football players from St. Louis and the basketball players, those are the fruits of our labors of the 60s. Not just my demonstration in Mexico City, you think of Bill Russell, or Jim Brown, or Kareem Abdul Jabbar, or Muhammad Ali, or Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, all of them down the line, speaking, for this young individual to step up. All of them are encouraging young individuals to step up, so people can get a clear understanding that we need to try and deal with these ills in society. We can no longer sit back and tolerate this. Whether we be a superstar, whether we be the President, or whether we just be John Doe walking down the street. It’s time for the voices to raise, to say hey, it’s time for us to have some serious dialogue about this. Because everybody talks around it, but nobody talks to the issue.
On what Dr. Harry Edwards might be saying to Kaepernick, what he said to Carlos, Smith:
I know he congratulated Colin on having the vision, the gumption to stand up and stand behind his beliefs. Relative to what he would say to him is that, just make sure that you realize that you done stepped into a storm, and you’re gonna have to be prepared for the storm that you stepped into. Colin seemed like he pretty much researched, he didn’t just do no reflection, no flash move. It looks like he studied what he’s involved in right now, and I think he’ll be alright in the long run. Many individuals that have made statements, they just haven’t been in a public like Colin or the Olympics for the world to see. I’m glad that they’re seeing it, because now it gives some stability to black people. And black people as a whole in this country, I think, for the first time, we have to reckon with ourselves, in terms if we’re going to come in line and be one as a race of people that’s for justice and equality, and a fair standard of life for all people.
On if country seems more divided in light of all the issues:
Well you know, I’m gonna tell you something. Black crime goes along with ignorance as well. When you take individuals and put them in a corner, and cut off their food line, or cut off their line for employment, cut off their line for education, and you constantly have the rain coming on them, and the sun coming on them, and everything is negative coming at them, eventually you’re gonna strike out against one another. Start to fight and hate one another. And this is a result of all the drugs that were dropped into that neighborhood. This is a result of the lack of education that was in that neighborhood. This was a result of a lack of employment in that neighborhood. This was a result of black man losing their manhood in that neighborhood. If you don’t have a job, will your kid look up to you to respect your ass? So, this is a result of America sitting on its butt and not dealing with these issues relative to the urban areas throughout the United States. Relative to race relations. I’ll state it one more time, this is a time where all the individuals, all the components need to sit down across this nation and start to have some serious dialogue as to how we can level the playing field, where everyone can feel that they’re needed, and they’re successful, and it’s like that to live here in the United States, or the world for that matter.
On next step for Kaepernick:
Well you know, I would say, if he’s a professional football player, he needs to hone in on his game, and perfect the game that God gave him. God gave him talents, but he left a little 20 percent for him to perfect himself. And he’s gonna need that to still show leadership on the team as a quarterback. He needs to do that to sit a lot of the naysayers down, that will be criticizing him every time he throws an interception or an errant pass. He just needs to perfect his game. But relative to his statement, I think I stated earlier, he said that he is well aware of the storm that he has stepped into, and I think that he’s prepared. Economically, he’s far more prepared than we were in the 60s.