John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the Olympic Statues on the San Jose State University campus during the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. (Photo: Josie Lepe/San Jose State University)
San Jose, CA – Fifty-one years after San Jose State University alumni Tommie Smith and John Carlos were removed from the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) is awarding Smith and Carlos their highest honor. On November 1, 2019, the Olympic sprinters were inducted into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame.
“The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame represents the pinnacle of competitive excellence in our nation, and its inspiring members are champions who have transcended sport through the legacy they leave both on and off the field of play,” said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland. “It’s an honor to welcome the class of 2019 into this prestigious and celebrated honor roll. We thank them for their impact on sport and society, and for continuing to inspire the next generation of athletes and fans.”
Tommie Smith, ‘69 Social Science, ‘05 Honorary Doctorate, and John Carlos, ‘05 Honorary Doctorate, were SJSU track and field team members when they qualified to compete in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. After earning gold and bronze medals, respectively, they bowed their heads and raised gloved fists on the medal stand while the national anthem was playing. In doing so, they created an iconic moment in athlete activism
“It is never too late to do what is right—especially regarding those who have sacrificed so much for so long—not to benefit themselves, but in defense of human rights. Congratulations Tommie and John—two extraordinary athletes and human rights advocates who will be remembered and treasured as heroes as long as the Olympic Games shall exist. Never has induction into this prestigious Hall Of Fame been more deserved,” stated Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, ’16 Honorary Doctorate, and Kenneth Noel, ’66 BA, ’68 MA, Sociology, co-founders of SJSU’s Olympic Project for Human Rights.
Smith and Carlos are the second and third San Jose State athletes inducted into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame. They join fellow Spartan teammate and two-time Olympic gold medal winner Lee Evans, ‘70 Physical Education, who was inducted in 1989.
“I cannot say enough about the sacrifices John and Tommie have made and the rich tradition of student activism they both represent for our university,” said Mary A. Papazian, president of San Jose State. “More than 50 years after Mexico City, they are still working to improve people’s lives. We are very proud that John and Tommie got their starts as San Jose State Spartans, and I am delighted to see them honored by the USOPC for the work they did and continue to do on behalf of others.”
About San Jose State University
The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations — offered through its eight colleges.
With more than 36,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.
The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.