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Vince Matthews, Wayne Collett and an Olympic protest forgotten

Vincent Matthews, Wayne Collett

(Original Caption) MUNICH: Kenya’s Julius Sang (R), unidentified Olympic officials and medalbearers (L) stands at stiff attention during the playing of the American national anthem at the awards ceremony here 9/7 following the Olympic 400-meter run for men. At center, the American first and second placers, Vincent Matthews (hand on hip) and Wayne Collett (barefoot, holding shoes) stand at ease and chat.

Bettmann Archive

In a largely forgotten moment, Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett made a medal stand protest at the 1972 Munich Olympics that has become more historically relevant with today’s athlete activism.

In this story, Tim Layden reported the circumstances of Matthews and Collett earning 400m gold and silver medals, what happened on the podium afterward, how it was received and this question: How did it affect the sprinters’ lives?

Their actions were compared and contrasted with Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised black-gloved fists on the 1968 Olympic 200m medal stand in Mexico City.

Today, the subject of athlete demonstrations is prominent in the Olympic movement.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

In January 2020, the IOC Athletes’ Commission published further guidelines pertaining to Rule 50. It stated that “protests and demonstrations” are not permitted at Olympic venues, during medal ceremonies, at Opening and Closing Ceremonies and at the Athletes’ Village. “Protests” included “gestures of a political nature, like a hand gesture or kneeling.”

Then last June, IOC President Thomas Bach, when asked about athletes potentially protesting at the Tokyo Games, said the IOC Athletes’ Commission will talk with athletes around the world to explore how Olympians can express themselves while keeping the Olympic Charter in mind.

While those discussions happen, the USOPC announced in December that it will not sanction Team USA athletes for peacefully and respectfully demonstrating in support of racial and social justice.

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