Exclusive HBO Sports Documentary 'Fists of Freedom: The Story of the '68 Summer Games,' To Receive Special Encore Presentation
The 1960s was one of the most volatile and turbulent decades in American history. And in the world of sports, no event would transcend the playing fields more than the 1968 Summer Games.
Examining one of the 20th century's most memorable moments in sport - the dramatic "Black Power" demonstration of American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the victory stand at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City - FISTS OF FREEDOM: THE STORY OF THE '68 SUMMER GAMES returns for an encore play 50 years after that iconic display on FRIDAY, JULY 13 (5:00-6:00 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO2.
The black-gloved, fist-held-high, black-power salute by U.S. Olympic Team members Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the victory stand at Mexico City was one of the most provocative sports moments of its era. FISTS OF FREEDOM explores the forces that combined to produce this indelible image.
Prior to the Mexico City Games, African-American activist Professor HARRY Edwards had proposed a boycott of the U.S. Olympic team to change the perception that the black athlete's job was to shut up and play the game. Though the boycott did not happen, the American athletes arrived in Mexico City amidst a storm of political and social unrest - and under the suspicious eye of IOC president Avery Brundage.
FISTS OF FREEDOM features HBO's acclaimed combination of rare footage, archival photos and revealing interviews. Among the interviewees are 1968 U.S. Olympic athletes Tommie Smith, Lee Evans, Ralph Boston, Bob Beamon, Bill Toomey, Bob Seagren and George Foreman, as well as HARRY Edwards and Bud Greenspan.
The film debuted on HBO in Aug. 1999, going on to receive a George F. Peabody Award.
FISTS OF FREEDOM: THE STORY OF THE '68 SUMMER GAMES is narrated by Liev Schreiber.
Larry James, 1968 U.S. Olympic sprinter and gold medalist: "1968 was cram-packed with enough events to cover the whole century."
Harry Edwards, civil rights activist and professor: "Sports was a legitimate lever to bring about changes relative to race... A battle for dignity and respect."
Lee Evans, 1968 U.S. Olympic sprinter and gold medalist: "You can play a part. You don't have to just stand there and watch everybody else. Do something. Don't be on the sideline."
Bill Toomey, 1968 U.S. Olympic decathlon gold medalist: "The backdrop was insanity. The electricity of all this energy - negative and positive - got into us, and we performed. The gun went off, and I was bulletproof."
Tommie Smith: "We were not Antichrists. We were just human beings who saw a need to be recognized. I don't like the idea of people looking at it as negative. There was nothing but a raised fist in the air and a bowed head acknowledging the American flag - not symbolizing a hatred for it."
Toomey: "You just can't stop the stupidity and the racism with just words... That single gesture was like a stick of dynamite in a pile of dynamite."
George Foreman, 1968 U.S. Olympic boxing gold medalist, who started waving a tiny American flag after his triumph in the ring: "I started waving the flag to show the whole world that not only had George Foreman won the gold medal but America did it."
Foreman, who was subsequently heavily criticized for not making a protest expression: "In 1964, I was a mugger, a thief digging my way into the mud so the dogs couldn't sniff me out and take me to jail. In less than four years later I am standing on a platform putting a gold medal around my neck with the promise of a better life... It didn't occur to me nor did it matter to me that people would take it one way or another. I went there to win a gold medal."
Evans, who also was criticized for a "watered down" visual protest on the victory stand: "People asked me, 'Why were you guys smiling so much on the victory stand?' And I said 'Man, some guy was threatening to shoot me. I smiled because I thought maybe they wouldn't be able to shoot a guy who is smiling.' That's the only thing that was on my mind on the victory stand - being shot dead. I said, 'Man, if you wanted to raise your fist up in the Olympic Games, you should have made the team and did it yourself.'"
Bud Greenspan, filmmaker: "I was one of those who said, 'My God, who do these guys think they are?' Three decades later these guys proved to be correct. It opened everybody's eyes."
James on the actions of Smith and Carlos: "Two simple athletes who ran in circles captured the entire world for a brief moment."