Caribbean National Olympic Committees (CANOC) president Brian Lewis is calling for the rescinding of a life-ban on two African American Olympic athletes, 48 years after the punishment was meted out to them for their podium protest.
In an interview with Olympic sports website insidethegames, Lewis called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reinstate USA’s Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett, the 400 metres gold and silver medallists, respectively, who were expelled from the 1972 Munich Olympics and banned for life after making a podium protest against racial inequality in the United States.
Their gesture was described by the IOC as an “insulting display”.
“The Olympic Movement owes Matthews and Collett an apology,” Lewis told insidethegames. “That their life bans have not to date been rescinded, is a travesty.”
Collett died in 2010 from cancer so any recognition now would only be posthumous while Matthews was inducted into the US Track and Field “Hall of Fame” in 2011.
Their actions followed a higher-profile protest by 200m medallists Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico Games. Smith and Carlos were immediately expelled from the Games.
Lewis made the call for reinstatement in the influential sports newsletter Sport Intern and for a review and revamp of IOC’s Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter that bans demonstration and protests, adding it was inconsistent with the UN Declaration on Human Rights and couldn’t stand scrutiny in a modernised world.
Lewis had earlier highlighted last month’s decision by the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to remove the bust of major donor Avery Brundage—IOC president in 1972 when the bans were imposed on Matthews and Collett—because of his racist and anti-semitic attitudes.
Lewis has also called for the IOC to present the highest award in the Olympic Movement to those who protested.