Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dr. John Carlos to Speak at the West Virginia University College of Law

Dr. John Carlos, who along with Olympic teammate Tommie Smith were criticized for protesting on the medal stand at the 1968 Mexico City Games, will discuss the evolving role of African American athletes in American culture and politics in a speech sponsored by the West Virginia University College of Law Sports and Entertainment Law Society.

Carlos will speak at noon on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom in the WVU Law Center.

Specifically, Dr. Carlos will discuss the national platform athletes are given, as the American public has become more and more enthralled in the commercialized sports industries. He will discuss how and if African American athletes utilize this platform as he and Smith did in 1968. Carlos won the bronze medal in the 200-meter dash behind Smith and Australian Peter Norman. While receiving their medals, Smith and Carlos raised gloved fists as a silent protest of racism and economic depression among oppressed people in America. In response, International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage banned the two men from the Olympic Village and forced them from the United States Olympic team. Carlos and Smith were embattled for years following their bold and meaningful protest.

The event is free to the public and will be webcast live at


  1. I know this had to be a wonderful event. Sorry that I was unable to attend.

  2. It does seem ironic: athletes have arguable the biggest and broadest audience in America, but they often seem reluctant to make impactful statements. I assume that they are often counseled to remain silent; controversial positions can jeopardize lucrative marketing deals. Yet speaking out in support of human rights hardly seems controversial. I’d like to think that Americans would respect an athlete who displayed compassion, honesty, and conviction. Regardless of what Charles Barkley said in his (in)famous commercial, athletes are role models, and I wish they’d use their platform to more than tell us what shoes to buy.

  3. I experienced the discussion at WVU Law. I grew up in a small, racially homogeneous (white) and read books and watched movies, documentaries, etc. that dealt with topics that John Carlos addressed. Even in college and now law school, I have not been exposed or even personally experienced to any of the police/society shenanigans Dr. Carlos spoke of during his talk -- for instance, police kicking the and beating the feet of the African-American homeless man while calmly requesting the white homeless man to move along.
    Growing up, the stories I read were never personal; the stories and movies were just that...stories and movies. Dr. Carlos's descriptions of his personal experiences being treated differently merely because of his race really struck me in a way that was different than the books and movies did. The talk really reinforced my already conceived perceptions that racism is an inexcusable state of mind. The stories I heard brought that belief to a more personal level.

    Brian B.
    -Bus. Org.

  4. I too grew up in very non-diverse town of about 4,000 where the population was 98% white and 0.25% African American. That means that there were only 10 African Americans of any age. I never really thought about this fact before now, because after I left to go to college I was surrounded by a much more diverse group of people. But I believe that in being from such a secluded town I was not exposed to much racism, because there was no one to be racist against. However, it seems ironic that in the 21st century there is still such a lack of diversity in many small towns, especially in the rural state of West Virginia. I was honored to have the experience of listening to Dr. Carlos's words. If you have never met Dr. Carlos you would not quite understand his personality. After all he has been through, he still has that sense of confidence, what could now be called "swagger". Dr. Carlos knows that we have come a long way regarding racial issues since 1968, but we also have a long way to go.

  5. Kudos to those at the West Virginia College of Law Sports and Entertainment Society for bringing such and interesting--and thought provoking--dialogue to their fellow students.

    There is a lot of pressure placed upon athletes to use their elevated position in society to speak out, and to a great extent this can be an unfair demand. Despite any individual desires they might have, star athletes who play team sports in today's world have to be conscious when speaking on divisive issues, lest they risk inviting unnecessary distraction upon their teammates or franchise.

    And even when the decision not to speak out is motivated by more individualistic desires- such as fear of alienating a certain demographic (see Michael Jordan's comment that "republicans buy sneakers too"- its still justifiable. The pedestal that the athlete rests on has likely come at the expense of tremendous sacrifice and hard work. They now have the opportunity to cash in on that sacrifice in the form of endorsements and other economic opportunities that are intwined with their goodwill. Just as a corporation would owe a duty to be profitable to its shareholders, perhaps these athletes feel that they can do more for their family and local community if they remain marketable.

    David B, UC

  6. Interesting; athletes probably do have the broadest audience in America, but it remains difficult for them to utilize their positions to further certain political interests. For example, Tim Tebow faced an overwhelming amount of criticism before and after he demonstrated his support for the pro-life movement in a 2010 Super Bowl advertisement. Additionally, as employees of the owners of the football team, athletes have financial incentives to further the interests of their owners. Certainly, owners would discourage their players from maintaining controversial positions that could jeopardize public opinion of their program. As such, I think it is difficult for athletes to go beyond non-controversial issues like cancer research & supporting troops, and move to advocating highly contested issues.

    What are some issues you would like certain athletes to take stances on? And how could they do so?

    KMW - UC