October 16th marked the 49th anniversary of an iconic moment in sports history, a moment which exemplified the unwavering dedication necessary to the conduction of actions of civil disobedience.

At the 1968 Olympics Games in Mexico City, two black U.S. medalists—Tommie Smith and John Carlos— had bowed their heads, closed their eyes and raised their glove-covered hands into the shape of a fist.  This salute, also known as the “black power salute,” was held for the entire duration of the U.S. National Anthem. These men, in the course of a few minutes, had created waves in the international community and would forever be remembered for their influence on the Black liberation movement in the U.S. This silent protest was orchestrated in order to highlight the rampant racial inequality in the states and bring awareness to the racial injustices African-Americans faced on a daily basis.

This imagery was so consequential to the following events in U.S. history that a documentary was created in 2008 to further educate audiences about the men behind the movement. The film was directed by Matt Norman, son of Peter Norman, the Australian 200 metres silver medalist who took to the podium in solidarity with the two dissidents.

Although the now legendary photo of Smith and Carlos is universally celebrated, at the time, the three men were ostracized as outcasts and suspended from participating in future Olympic games. Never again did Smith, Carlos or Norman race for their country.

Despite the somber ending to their careers, Carlos and Smith received adoration from the Black community upon their return. Their political beliefs were not only affirmed by their Black peers, but their actions were cemented into history as one of the Civil Rights Movement’s notorious moments.

    Alas, the same fate was not in store for their third, often forgotten partner, Peter Norman. In the photo above, it is evident that a white man is standing on the Silver medal portion of the podium. However, his presence is often glazed over when individuals recount the story behind the photo. Norman, a staunch anti-racism advocate, had actually lent Smith and Carlos his gloves to wear when conducting their act of protest. As you can see in the photo, the gloves were a single pair. In addition, If you look closely, you can see a small badge upon Norman’s breast which reads “Olympic Project for Human Rights.” The organization was set up a year previous to the event in opposition to racism in sports. Although Norman did not raise his fist, this badge was Norman’s own stand for racial equality. A stand which would cost him his career and would result in a cult-like hatred of his character in Australia.

A human rights pioneer in his own right, Norman was known for speaking out against his country's "White Australia" policy. The derogatory policy had put heavy restrictions on non-white immigration and had enacted prejudicial laws against the country’s indigenous aboriginal population. Although, Norman’s stance on race was clear, his actions at the Mexico Olympic games were not anticipated. Upon his return to Australia, Norman became a widely ridiculed figure and was swept aside as a pariah. The fifth fastest runner in the world and an Australian record-breaker, Norman should have qualified for the 1972 Olympics in Munich. However, due to his previous actions, he was put on “unofficial sanction” (Although, the Australian Olympic Committee claims he was never excluded).

Norman was relegated back into society as a typical blue-collar worker. It was difficult for him to find work thus he had to work multiple low-paying jobs. He became a gym teacher and later became a butcher.

28 years after the protest, Norman still paid the price as he wasn’t invited “in any capacity” to march with the 2000 Australian Olympic team according to his son Matthew Norman. For years, Norman was offered invites to Olympic events, however it was suggested that he had to condemn the actions of Smith and Carlos in order to be considered. He refused every time. This courage was recognized by Carlos as he described Norman as his “equal” in the fight for racial equality, and recognized how Peter was “fighting an entire country and suffering alone."

    The Australian government would not offer an official apology until 2012.

Forty-nine years ago, an act of defiance pertinent to the American Civil Rights movement was conducted at the Mexico Olympics. This silent protest and the controversy behind the decisions made are still relevant today. Colin Kaepernick and athletes from an array of different backgrounds still fight the same fight Smith and Carlos had initiated. However, not only do we need to support our Black brothers and sisters leading this fight, we have to uplift and remember our allies too. Peter Norman was a man of great honor and an activist to look up to, we need to remember his story and his contributions as a white ally.