On January 31, longtime sports broadcaster Brent Musburger will call his last game, an SEC basketball tilt between Kentucky and Georgia. On January 25, on the ESPN show Pardon The Interruption, co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon took turns praising Brent Musburger, with Wilbon saying that the man was “his idol,” fondly recalling reading him when Musberger was a newspaper columnist in Wilbon’s native Chicago.
Would this include the infamous column Musburger wrote for the Chicago American during the 1968 Olympics in which he described American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who has raised black-gloved fists on the medal stand in protest of the denial of human rights, as “a pair of black-gloved stormtroopers”? Musburger was part of a chorus of outrage which saw Smith and Carlos suspended from the Olympic team and banished from the Olympic Village.
Musburger’s column’s worth of vile commentary wasn’t just racist, it reflected the divisive idea that the interests of blacks are separate from those of everyone else.
At the 1968 medal ceremony, second-place finisher Peter Norman, a white Australian, wore a solidarity badge. As a result, he was expelled from the Australian Olympic team and not allowed to compete in the 1972 Games. When Norman died in 2006, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral.
Tommie Smith once wrote that while their gesture was always described as a “black power salute,” their focus was “human rights, not civil rights, nothing to do with the Panthers or Black Power–all humanity, even those who denied us ours.”
Brent Musburger, who has never apologized for what he wrote, not even after ESPN honored Smith and Carlos in 2008, will now finally fade into the sunset. The vision of universal human rights will not leave with him.