John Jeansonne contrasts the interest of journalists in two events from last week's US Olympic trials in Sacramento. One event, organized by the 1968 rowing team, recognized Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Gold and Bronze medalists from the '68 games. A second was a "choreographed Nike presentation of its 2004 Olympic team uniforms."
Most will recall Smith and Carlos on the medal stand, fists raised in black gloves, heads bowed, during the playing of our national anthem. "[A]n act of love. Tough love, but love" for the country, says Carlos today. A photo of the scene was apparently voted by European editors "the most significant dramatic photo of the 20th century." I buy that. I remember the spanking, even though I was a mere kid at the time. But today's journalists appear to be more interested in checking out the latest corporate press release.
[N]ow, it is 2004. Though widely publicized to the hundreds of journalists here covering the trials, the Smith-Carlos event drew only five reporters, none from television. For the Nike outfit unveiling, the room overflowed with 150 reporters and 10 TV cameras.
"Show me the money" might be an apt characterization of today's reporters. A more positive view of the story is that America has made significant racial progress in the last 36 years. The advance has been slow, not swift, but steady nevertheless. Anger and shame have been recast by the protagonist as love. Incremental progress sustained over 36 years amounts to enormous change.