SAN JOSE, Calif. — Tommie Smith is selling the gold medal he won at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, where his Black Power salute on the podium shocked the sports world.
The former San Jose State runner has put his gold medal for the 200 meters and red-and-white Puma spikes up for auction at New York-based M.I.T. Memorabilia. The bidding starts at $250,000, and the sale is scheduled to close Nov. 4.
M.I.T.'s Gary Zimet said Smith is selling the medal for the money but also because he wants to share it with the public.
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Smith, now 66 and living in Georgia declined to comment on the auction to the San Jose Mercury News. "He feels that what he did ruined his life in many ways, and he simply doesn't want to put himself in the media spotlight," Zimet told the newspaper.
San Jose earned the nickname "Speed City" during that era for its plethora of world-class athletes.
Smith won the 200 meters in world-record time before officialls expelled him from the Games along with bronze medallist John Carlos when they bowed their heads during the Star-Spangled Banner and raised their black-gloved fists in protest during the medal ceremony on Oct. 17, 1968.
As for the glove, Zimet told the newspaper that Smith has lost track of it through the years. Zimet noted that he'd also like to get in touch with Carlos about a similar sale.
'Act of disloyalty'?
The human rights protest eventually earned Smith and Carlos international acclaim.
Smith's biography on his official website sheds light on his attitude toward the fallout from the incident, questioning why the public interpreted the gesture as "an act of disloyalty to the country he represented."
"Why do so many Americans still consider this gesture as disrespectful even today, when we consider ourselves to be politically correct and considerably more understanding of cultural differences?" the biography asks.
"Can we honestly look back at the state of civil rights in 1968 and tell these young black men that they had no right to choose a worldwide forum to protest inhumane treatment of blacks and other minorities at that Olympic Games?" it continues.
The Mercury News also noted that in Smith's 2007 autobiography, "Silent Gesture," the former sprinter appears to remain bitter about his post-Games reception in San Jose, which he described in the book as a racist place.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.