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Maggie Hendricks

'Black-power salute' gold medal is for sale

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Tommie Smith, the Olympic gold medalist who along with teammate John Carlos sent a shockwave through the 1968 Mexico City Olympics by giving a black-power signal during the medal ceremony, is now selling the gold medal he won for winning the 200-meter run.

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that Smith's gold medal and cherry-red Puma running shoes are on the auction block with M.I.T. Memorabilia. The starting bid is $250,000; the auction will close Nov. 4. Smith and his family are not commenting on the sale, but an M.I.T. representative said:

"Of course the medal is important to him, but the memory of winning the race is far more important," [Gary] Zimet said of Smith's then-world-record time of 19.83 seconds. "He is doing it for the money, but not because he is desperate. If someone is willing to pay his price, he'll sell."

The famous black glove that Smith donned when giving the black-power salute was not included in the auction because it is missing. Smith said he lost it over the course of his moves.

[Related: Laker's NBA title ring for sale]

In the midst of the Civil Rights era, Smith and Carlos' gesture was a sign of solidarity with black Americans. For it, they were suspended from the U.S. team and thrown out of the Olympic Village by International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage.

Though it's odd to think of an Olympian giving up the gold medal he had trained and fought for, Smith had a slightly different experience than the average Olympian. Having the medal in his hand won't change the fact that he won the gold, or that he was treated so terribly afterward.

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