Fifty years ago, Australian Olympian Peter Norman joined American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos in a powerful statement about racial discrimination and inequality.
On October 16, 1968 during the 200m medal presentation at the Mexico City Olympic Games, silver medallist Norman declared “I’ll stand with you” and stood in silent solidarity on the dais as Smith and Carlos raised their gloved fists in what is known as the Black Power salute.
Their gesture generated instant shockwaves – with the athletes ostracised in some quarters and honoured in others – and continues to echo across the modern sporting landscape.
From today until December 10 this year, the National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground will reflect on the impact of Norman’s protest with a new showcase, A Stand for Humanity: Peter Norman and the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.
The display features a number of powerful items including the Olympic Silver medal awarded to Norman during the presentation and the Australian team tracksuit top he wore on the podium. Also featured is the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badge Norman donned as a gesture of his support for the protest. Previously assumed to be lost, the museum is privileged to share this unique item with visitors.
A photo of the historic statement – now considered one of the most iconic images in Olympic history – is also on display.
“Alongside Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Peter Norman showed the world that the values of unity, respect and understanding can leave an indelible mark on history,” said National Sports Museum Assistant Curator, Jeremy McEachern.
“It is fitting that on the 50th anniversary of this powerful gesture, the National Sports Museum celebrates the enormity of Norman’s action, as well as its ongoing impact.”
“At the same time as being one of the most defining images of race and sport, it is also one of the most enduring – you only have to look at the recent ‘take a knee’ protests in American Football to be reminded of the relevance of what Norman, Smith and Carlos did so many years ago.”
The National Sports Museum extends its gratitude to the Norman family, as well as the National Museum of Australia, in loaning the objects that allow this important story to be brought to life for museum visitors.