The Nation’s Dave Zirin has seen his name pop up in this space a few times recently, mostly because Mad Dog Radio’s resident birther-blowhard Dino Costa considers those less than enamored with Tim Tebow’s proselytizing to be “douchebags” or worse. Zirin, co-author of ‘The John Carlos Story : The Sports Moment That Changed The World’, reminds us that amongst the most vocal critics of Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power salute on the Mexico Olympics podium was a scribe who’d later become, “an iconic broadcaster who now sits comfortably as the elder statesman of the sports world, appearing in family friendly movies like The Waterboy and Cars 2. His name is Brent Musburger.” And with that, Zirin returns to Musburger’s thoughts that appeared in the Chicago American.
“One gets a little tired of having the United States run down by athletes who are enjoying themselves at the expense of their country,” he wrote. Musburger then infamously called Smith and Carlos “a pair of black-skinned stormtroopers.”
The above quote has been disseminated in books and articles for years but Musburger’s full column is a difficult find. With an assist from Professor Jules Boykoff and an old-school tool called microfilm, I found it, and if anything, it’s even uglier than the above quotes suggest. The headline is “Bizarre Protest By Smith, Carlos Tarnishes Medals.” Despite seeing what they did as “bizarre,” Musburger doesn’t once address why Smith and Carlos did what they did or quote them directly. He does however find time to mock them repeatedly. He describes Smith and Carlos as “juvenile”, “ignoble,” and—this actually is bizarre—“unimaginative.” Musburger calls Tommie Smith “the militant black.” In describing a scene of Carlos trying to defend their actions, Musburger writes, “Perhaps it’s time 20-year-old athletes quit passing themselves off as social philosophers.”
And then there are those words that still singe the eyes: “black-skinned stormtroopers.” You almost don’t believe it until you read it.
As for the actual stormtrooper-sympathizer, Musburger refers to Avery Brundage as a kindly old grandfather and with great affection and addresses him as “Avery”. No mention of course that many of the athletes called him “Slavery Avery.”
“We are talking about someone who compared us to Nazis. Think about that,” says Carlos. “Here we are standing up to apartheid and to a man in Avery Brundage who delivered the Olympics to Hitler’s Germany. And here’s Musburger calling us Nazis. That got around. It followed us. It hurt us. It hurt my wife, my kids. I’ve never been able to confront him about why he did this. Every time I’ve been at a function or an event with Brent Musburger and I walk towards him, he heads the other way.”