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'Olympic legend Jesse Owens tried to stop me giving black power salute at 1968 games': Tommie Smith reveals how the feud between them was never settled

Mar 14 '16 | By La Afrique Media | Views: 137 | Comments: 0

When Olympic champions Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the black power salute from atop the podium at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, it sent shockwaves through the world — and created a rift between Smith and Olympic legend Jesse Owens that would never heal, despite Smith's efforts.

In an interview with NY Daily News, Smith, now 71, told how Owens had been brought in by the Olympics Committee in an effort to persuade the athletes not to give the salute, which it was feared would 'politicize' a traditionally non-political event.

Owens had become one of America's most famous black athletes in 1936 when he won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics and smashed Adolf Hitler's vision of Aryan superiority. But he was unable to persuade Smith and Carlos, and their actions resulted in a decades-long rift between Smith and Owens. 

'The Olympic Committee wanted [Owens] to come and talk to us about possible action that we might take and that it would not be a good idea to do it, and if there was something that he could help us with, tell him what we wanted and he would take it to the Olympic Committee and see what the committee could do.' Smith told the NY Daily News.

'But at that particular time, we were not concerned with what the Olympic Committee could do for us. It was beyond the Olympic Committee by then. You can see that he was being used.'

Undaunted, Smith and Carlos — who won gold and bronze in the 200m sprint, respectively — went ahead with the salute, resulting in one of the most iconic images in Olympic history.

And the result was that Owens and Smith would never speak again.

Victorious: Tommie Smith claims gold in the 1968 Olympic Games, assuring his place in history. However, he says that his decision to give the black power salute alienated him from Owens for the rest of their lives+2

Victorious: Tommie Smith claims gold in the 1968 Olympic Games, assuring his place in history. However, he says that his decision to give the black power salute alienated him from Owens for the rest of their lives

'I wrote Jesse Owens a letter around 1979,' Smith told NY Daily News. 'I wonder where that letter went. I think [Owens] was living in Arizona at the time. I received no response. This is the first I’ve told people about that letter.' 

The Olympic Committee was displeased by the salute, especially Olympics president Avery Brundage, who felt that such a political message was not suitable for the apolitical games.

Some argued that Brundage, who had overseen the 1936 games, did not admonish German athletes for giving Nazi salutes, but Brundage said that the Nazi salute was representative of a competing country, whereas the black power salute did not represent any nation.

Smith and Carlos were temporarily banned from the US team, and both men endured death threats for decades after. 

Owens died in Tucson, Arizona, in 1980 at the age of 66, A film about his struggle to compete in the 1936 Olympic Games, Race, is currently out in cinemas, but makes no mention of his role in the 1968 competition.

He took home gold in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump competitions. 

In August of that year, Owens spoke toThe Pittsburgh Press about passing by Hitler's box while leaving the games: 'It happened he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100 meters. But before he left I was on my way to a broadcast and passed near his box. He waved at me and I waved back. I think it was bad taste to criticize the "man of the hour" in another country.'

Archival footage shows Jesse Owens winning gold at 1936 OlympicsLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%00:00PlayMuteCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:50FullscreenNeed Text

Race: Owens (pictured left, front) claimed four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. His victory (pictured right) saw him surrounded by people giving the Nazi salute to Hitler

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3456493/Olympic-legend-Jesse-Owens-tried-stop-giving-black-power-salute-1986-games-Tommie-Smith-reveals-feud-never-settled.html#ixzz42suIxFUy 
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