The Olympics and Civil Rights, and the History of Discrimination in Sports

The continuing LGBT controversy and protests at the Winter Olympics in Sochi bring to mind other discrimination protests in Olympics past. In his book Sidelined: How American Sports Challenged the Black Freedom StruggleSimon Henderson discusses black Olympians’ Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics against racial discrimination. After receiving their medals, Smith and Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in a protest that led to this iconic image.


As Henderson writes, the Olympics has long been a platform for protest and “political symbolism.” This tradition continues today at the Sochi Olympics. For further reading, check out this article from playthegame.org that discusses the presence of athlete activists in Sochi and in Olympics past. Pick up a copy of Sidelined from the University Press of Kentucky as a celebration of both the Olympics and Black History Month!

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One thought on “The Olympics and Civil Rights, and the History of Discrimination in Sports

  1. Pingback: America’s Forgotten Sweetheart | The University Press of Kentucky

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