By Juan Manuel Arróniz
Both athletes chatted and payed no attention to the national anthem.
After the 1972 400 meters sprint, Vince Matthews and fellow American Wayne Collet walked to the podium and both stood on the tallest part of it. (Matthews had won gold and Collet silver). During the anthem, they talked a bit and did not really put attention, they were just waiting for it to end.
Avery Brundgage, the President of the International Olympic Commmittee and also an American, immediately banned them from the Olympic Games. Little could their coach Bill Bowerman and Jesse Owens do to repeal the ban from happening, the United States Olympic Committee had also taken the decision of banning both athletes for life. Clifford Buck, committee’s president simply said, “Well, they insulted the American flag.”
After the incident, the United States was unable to participate in the 400 relay as the only available runner they had was Lee Evans.
Collett later commented: “I couldn’t stand there and sing the words because I don’t’ think they’re true. I think we have the potential to have a beautiful country, but I don’t think we do.” He died in 2010 a victim of cancer and never regretting his actions.
The protest was certainly overshadowed by the tragic events in which Israeli athletes were captured and later killed by a Palestine terrorist organization, Black September. However, they were in line with those of John Carlos and Tommie Smith four years before in Mexico, and with the ones we see today in the NFL and some other sports; The problem still persists.
Watch the protest.