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Tommie Smith selling '68 gold medal

NEW YORK, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- A longtime associate of Tommie Smith says he doesn't think Smith is selling his controversial Olympic gold medal because he needs the money.

Smith hasn't said anything about the offer, but sports columnist David Steele, who wrote a book in conjunction with Smith, told The New York Times he never had any inkling that Smith was having financial difficulties.

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"I never got the sense that he did it because he was hurting for money," Steele said. "I worry with this news getting out now that everyone is going to get that impression."

The Times said Saturday an auction house offering the medal and the track shoes Smith wore in Mexico City planned to start the bidding at $250,000.

Smith and John Carlos stunned the world in 1968 when they raised their fists in a black power salute during the awards ceremony for the 200-meter track event. Many people, particularly in the United States, were appalled and angered at the gesture during the national anthem.

Steele told The Times that Smith, now 66, never regretted the gesture despite the flak he continues to experience.

""He may not be thinking about it as an object he has to cling to," Steele speculated. "He might put it to better use."

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