Lee Evans, Olympic Runner Who Protested Racism, Dies at 74


Lee Evans, the Black American runner who received two gold medals at the racially charged 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City and at a presentation ceremony wore a Black Panther-style beret and raised his fist to protest racism within the United States, died on Wednesday. He was 74.

His demise was introduced by USA Track and Field, which didn’t say the place he died or cite the trigger.

The newspaper The Mercury News in San Jose, Calif., the place Evans grew up, quoted pals of his as saying that he had died in a hospital in Nigeria after struggling a stroke. Evans was an assistant observe coach at a sports academy there run by the Nigerian soccer star Segun Odegbami and had coached African observe groups for a few years. The paper quoted Odegbami as saying that Evans collapsed final week whereas having dinner with him and different pals.

Evans’s protest at the 1968 Olympic Games made headlines, but it surely was not the one which shocked the world at these Games.

That was the riveting picture of raised fists on the winners’ platform by each American 200-meter dash medalists, Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze), in what had been extensively thought to be defiant Black Power salutes as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed and American flags had been raised earlier than a packed Olympic Stadium crowd and a worldwide tv viewers.

Celebrated in books, movies, picture essays and commentaries on civil rights on the planet of sports activities, the protest — coming at a time of assassinations, antiwar demonstrations, city riots and racial turmoil in America, and defended by Smith and Carlos as “human rights salutes” — marked an finish to the age of innocence at the Olympic Games, which had been as soon as thought to have transcended home and worldwide conflicts.

Evans, one in all a number of Black athletes who had threatened to boycott the Games, confronted a dilemma after Smith and Carlos had been suspended after which expelled for all times from the Olympics for his or her protest. He agonized over whether or not to drag out of his two scheduled races — a 400-meter run two days later, and a 1,600-meter staff relay three days after that. Withdrawal, he knew, may finish his working profession.

Carlos persuaded him to go forward, he mentioned. And within the rarefied air of Mexico City, 7,350 toes above sea degree, he smashed two world information. He received his first gold within the 400-meter in 43.86 seconds, a report that stood for 20 years, and his second gold anchoring the United States staff within the 1,600-meter relay, run in 2 minutes 56.16 seconds, a report that lasted for 24 years.

The 400-meter race was swept by three Americans: Evans took the gold, Larry James the silver and Ron Freeman the bronze. On the victors’ platform afterward, all three obtained their medals carrying berets like these recognized with the Black Panthers, and all three raised their fists, as Smith and Carlos had. But they lowered them and eliminated their berets when the nationwide anthem was performed and the American flags had been raised.

That conciliatory gesture was considered by the International Olympic Committee, which didn’t penalize or reprimand the three sprinters — though Evans, at a news convention after the ceremony, mentioned, “I feel I won this gold medal for Black people in the United States and Black people all over the world.”

After successful the 1,600-meter relay, the American staff — Evans, James, Freeman and Vince Matthews — staged no demonstration throughout the awards ceremony, though Evans refused to shake fingers with an Olympic official.

But protests rippled via the 1968 Olympics, together with declarations of assist for Smith and Carlos by different American medal winners and a choice by victorious Cuban runners to ship their medals to Stokely Carmichael, the previous chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who had been named “honorary prime minister” of the Black Panther Party.

Evans continued to compete in 400-meter races after his 1968 Olympic triumphs, however he by no means once more dominated the occasion as he had in Mexico City. He received the United States nationwide championships in 1969 and 1972, however completed fourth within the 1972 Olympic trials. He was chosen for the 1,600-meter relay at the 1972 Munich Games, however the United States couldn’t subject a staff as a result of two runners had been suspended for staging one more demonstration at the Olympics 4 years earlier.

Evans, who coached track-and-field groups within the United States, Africa and the Middle East for a few years, was inducted into the United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame in Manhattan in 1983 and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs in 1989.

Lee Edward Evans was born on Feb. 25, 1947, in Madera, Calif., the oldest of seven kids of Dayton and Pearlie Mae Evans. His father was a development employee. The household moved to San Jose in 1962 and picked cotton within the San Joaquin Valley within the summers. Lee by no means forgot how a subject boss had cheated them at the weigh-in scales.

“I was scared they’d send the whole family away, so I didn’t say anything,” he recalled. “I’ve always been ashamed of that.”

At Overfelt High School in San Jose, from which he graduated in 1966, he developed right into a gangly however highly effective runner. He went undefeated in his highschool profession and received the primary 4 Amateur Athletic Union races he entered.

Evans was a superb middle-distance runner. Many who observe observe and subject name the 400-meter a killer race, demanding the pace of a sprinter and the endurance of a long-distance runner. It is principally 1 / 4 of a mile at the breakneck tempo of a 100-yard sprint.

While attending San Jose State University, Evans received the 400-meter at the 1967 Pan American Games and the 1968 N.C.A.A. championships. He and his teammates Smith and Carlos grew to become followers of Harry Edwards, the San Jose State sociologist who based the Olympic Project for Human Rights. The group was unable to get Black athletes to boycott the Mexico City Games however impressed the fist salutes and different protest gestures there.

Evans graduated from San Jose State in 1970 and from 1972 to 1974 competed within the International Track Association, a short-lived skilled circuit. In addition to Nigeria, he later coached observe and subject in Cameroon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and different nations. He was an assistant coach at the University of Washington in 2000 and 2001 after which head coach at the University of South Alabama till 2008, when he returned to Nigeria.

Evans had a son, Keith, from a wedding that led to divorce in 1971. He and his second spouse, Princess, a Liberian refugee, hoped to construct a college close to Monrovia, Liberia. He was in California to boost cash for the challenge in 2011 when he realized that he had a mind tumor. The tumor was discovered to be benign and eliminated.

Complete data on survivors was not instantly obtainable.

Evans’s profession was chronicled in Frank Murphy’s e book “The Last Protest: Lee Evans in Mexico City” (2006).

In 2014, Evans was banned from teaching for 4 years by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria for giving a schoolgirl performance-enhancing substances that may have been answerable for her failing a doping check. But in 2019, apparently rehabilitated within the eyes of his many followers, he appeared on Nigerian tv as a nationwide hero, introduced as a particular visitor of the Sports Parliament on NTA, the nation’s largest community.



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