Yesterday, I appeared on al-Jazeera English's Riz Khan show along with Cheek and 1968 medalist Dr. John Carlos, who along with Tommie Smith raised a black gloved fist to protest injustice during the Olympics forty years ago in Mexico City.
Riz is clearly among "Those of us with a sense of history" whom I addressed in my closing paragraph! Zirin's elaboration over all the connections was also interesting:
One of the most striking things Cheek said was that in 2006, he gave his prize money for winning the speed skating gold to children's charities in Africa and everyone cheered. Now that he is speaking out on why the children of Darfur need help, he is branded as a menace. It was hard to not think of the famous Oscar Romero quote, "When I fed the poor, I was a saint.," said the slain El Salvadoran priest. "When I asked why they were poor, I was a communist." It was also hard to not notice the contrast between Cheek and Dr. Carlos. Joey Cheek wanted to go to China to raise awareness about China's shortcomings on the question of human rights. Dr. Carlos didn't go to Mexico City to speak out about Mexico, but the United States' inability to live up to its ideals.
Out of fairness I should point out that today's Zirin post was met with a comment from "HonestLiberal" citing chapter and verse:
'No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or areas' -- Olympic Charter -- Rule 51.3
This leads me to ask whether or not that rule was in effect in 1968. If so, why was is not invoked to strip Carlos and Tommie Smith (and, for that matter, Peter Norman) of their medals; did the International Olympic Committee (IOC) regard it as a rule to be invoked for convenience rather than principle? On the other hand, if the rule was not in effect in 1968, was it a reaction to Carlos and Smith and their decision to demonstrate that a sound body could, indeed, support a sound (not to mention reflective) mind; and, if it was such a reaction, is "Mens sana in corpora sano" still an Olympic motto? Perhaps the legacy of chutzpah behind the IOC decision to side with China and against its own past medal winners goes back further than I originally thought!