The International Olympic Committee just reversed the gold and silver medalists’ Olympic ban.
Vincent “Vince” Edward Matthews is a track and field athlete, best known for his skills in the 400m. He won two gold medals at the 1968 and 1972 Summer Olympics. Wayne Collett, who was also banned, competed alongside Matthews at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany and won a silver medal. Instead of celebrating their wins, they protested. Although they weren’t the first to protest at the major games, what happened to them afterwards would set a precedent for the future.
Instead of standing at attention on the podium to receive their awards, Matthews and Collett were dressed in casual post-race clothing, standing with their hands on their hips during the national anthem. Once the anthem ended, Matthews walked off, twirling the gold medal around his fingers before exiting into the tunnel, the crowd booing him in response. Collett had exited, but reappeared to collect his sweats. As he left for the tunnel a second time, he turned towards his fellow USA athletes in the stand, clenched his right fist and raised it in the air for all to see.
The athletes could’ve never guessed it would cost them everything they worked so hard for. Shortly after, the International Olympic Committee banned Matthews and Collett from the Olympic Games for life! The men stood tall on their decisions and never waivered for the media or anyone else. They acknowledged how they stood at attention for years but chose to stop due to the social injustices and disparities that were happening at the time.
50 years later, the International Olympic Committee Executive Board has decided to reverse Matthew’s bans and stated he would be accredited for future Olympics, if requested. The committee has not shared their reason on the spontaneous decision, but we can best constitute it to the same social justice issues and disparities in America becoming heightened and very prevalent today.
Collett joined the ancestors in 2010 due to nasopharyngeal cancer, but 74-year-old Matthews can bask in the honor for the both of them. It’s been a long time coming, but it is well deserved nonetheless!
Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images/ Hartmut Reeh/picture alliance