Salute at ESPYs: Smith and Carlos to receive Arthur Ashe Courage Award

Updated: May 29, 2008, 2:18 PM ET
ESPN.com

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the 1968 Olympic medalists who stirred emotions at home and abroad for giving the Black Power salute on the podium in Mexico City while receiving their medals, will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs this summer.

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The ESPYs, co-presented by Hummer and Under Armour, will be televised July 20 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Smith won gold in the 200 meters in a world-record time of 19.83 seconds and teammate Carlos took the bronze in the '68 Games. On the victory stand, with heads bowed and black-gloved fists angled toward the sky as the national anthem played, the two men said their action represented not only the American struggle for racial equality but the universal struggle for basic human rights.

Their display also was supported by 200-meter silver medalist Peter Norman of Australia, who wore a human rights badge on the podium.

[+] EnlargeTommie Smith, John Carlos
AP Photo/FileWith gloved fists extended skyward, Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos became known the world over for their statement at the 1968 Mexico City Games.

Forty years later, and only weeks away from the Beijing Games -- which are embroiled in a contentious human rights debate of their own -- Smith and Carlos will receive the award that is presented annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports.

"Four decades after a moment etched forever in sports history -- and also 40 years since Arthur Ashe's first U.S. Open victory -- issues of race and social inequality remain an integral part of our daily discourse, enveloping both sports and politics, ESPYs executive producer Maura Mandt said in a statement. "The protests swirling around the Beijing Olympics, and athletes being asked to sign waivers stating that they will refrain from demonstrations, reinforce the importance and relevance of this story."

Smith and Carlos were suspended from the U.S. track and field team by International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage and banned from the Olympic Village. While opponents of their Black Power salute said it disgraced all Americans, supporters lauded them for their bravery.

"I stand proud to receive this award just as I stood proud on that victory stand 40 years ago," Smith said in a statement. "I stood for human and civil rights then, issues that today are just as important."

Past recipients of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award include Jim Valvano, Steve Palermo, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Pat and Kevin Tillman, and Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, four passengers who lost their lives on United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.