SJSU Icons Tommie Smith, John Carlos Return to Announce Plans to Restore ‘Speed City’ Legacy

Speed City will rise again, but not before San Jose State University raises $5 million to create a new track and field facility.

Schools official, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, and SJSU and Olympic track legends all graced a makeshift stage Monday to announce the restoration of the men’s track program that put San Jose on the sports map.

To the side of the stage, near the Central Classroom Building, a tent was set up with pictures, awards and complimentary cards reminding the community of SJSU’s vaunted track and field legacy. Donations were not requested Monday, but the university is utilizing previous and current athletes to create a buzz and recruit donors.

Olympic medalists and SJSU alums Tommie Smith and John Carlos, immortalized by the on-campus statue that recreated their black power salute at the 1968 Olympics, both offered praise for the decision to restore the men’s track program and its legacy.

“The people who have tilled the soil to cultivate and plant the seeds are important,” Smith said. “Now we are moving and opening the gate to get into the field and cultivate more so. Once the money is raised, that will move the education along. Sports are education.”

SJSU plans to reinstate the men’s track and field team by October 2018, a little more than 50 years after Smith and Carlos—gold and bronze medal winners in the 200 meters, respectively—made their controversial civil rights stand on the treatment of African Americans at home.

Together, they stood on the medal podium steps and raised black-gloved fists as the U.S. national anthem played. Sports commentator Brent Musberger dismissed the two men as “black-skinned storm troopers” and many conservatives were appalled by an Olympic stage being used for a political protest.

On Monday, Smith stressed that Carlos and he were both students who were frustrated with putting in long hours as student-athletes, held up as celebrities on the track while still being viewed as less than off of it. The statue represents not just their stand, but also our struggle for equality as a society, Smith said.

“We may have been the ones to put the foot on the steps, but when we walked off we carried you with us,” Smith said.

SJSU’s new men’s team, which will join a still existing women’s track program, expects to begin competing in the spring of 2019, which will also coincide with another 50-year anniversary. The SJSU men’s track and field team garnered the nickname Speed City for its consistently stellar athletes, who won the 1969 NCAA outdoor track championships. Due to a reallocation of funding, SJSU discontinued the program in 1988.

New SJSU president Mary Papazian offered welcoming remarks, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo spoke about the rebirth of a celebrated program.

“It harkens to the day when SJSU students led the world, and this is a program that means much more than simply great accomplishments on the field or around the track,” Liccardo said.

Racism was a hurdle Smith, Carlos and many of their classmates and teammates frequently had to overcome, and the nation’s ongoing discussion of race and the treatment of minorities by law enforcement wasn’t lost on the mayor.

“The conversation in 1968 certainly had a different dimension and context, but the conversation remains the same,” Liccardo said. “It’s a conversation we must continue to have if we are going to achieve what so many of us desire, the dream of Martin Luther King.”

Athletic director Gene Bleymaier said the goal of $5 million would go toward not only the men’s track and field facility, but also it would benefit the women’s program, students at the school and the surrounding community.

The new facility will be dedicated to Bud Winter, the legendary coach who recruited and trained 91 student-athletes to top-10 international rankings. He also sent 27 athletes to the Olympics.

SJSU student-athletes Nicole Iloanya and Jose Pina also spoke in favor of the decision. Iloanya, a triple jumper and sprinter for the women’s team, said that a home track will make training and competing easier. Pina, a long distance runner, noted that the 12-mile commute to practice has sometimes put him and teammates at risk of being late to class. Both discussed the positive exposure having meets and invitationals on campus would bring to San Jose State.

Smith and Carlos received a standing ovation before speaking, and Carlos recalled the surprise many had while the athletes felt something special was taking place on campus.

“Who knew that San Jose would be pushing San Francisco off the map,” Carlos said with a laugh.

Harry Edwards, a SJSU alumnus who organized the Olympic Project for Human Rights that led to Smith and Carlos’ 1968 protest, joined the men on stage and suggested a 21st century men’s track and field program at SJSU will allow a new generation to add to Speed City’s legacy.

All photos by Greg Ramar.


  1. Nothing inspiring or uplifting about the dreadful Smith/Carlos statue.

    Primitive tribalism and racially divisive scab picking.

    If this is SJSU’s claim to fame and the progressive elite’s idea of “consciousness” raising, it’s no wonder why our first black president has failed to achieve racial harmony.


    • It’s easy to make fun of this sort of response or to simply say that the feeling it describes doesn’t match up with reality, BUT it’s incredibly important to pay attention to it…because this feeling from SJOUTSISETHEBUBBLE makes up almost the entirety of Donald Trump campaign support (from people who are supporting his campaign for reasons that Trump speaks their tribes language).

      • Ross:

        You’re trying to say something, aren’t you.

        Well, just let go and get in touch with your inner name caller. It’s probably the real you.

      • Josh, Jennifer:

        Here’s another violator of the SJI comments policy.

        > Why are you still in the racist closet? All your other bigot buddies came out to play. Stop hiding inside your tiny bigot bubble.

        “Racist comments”. I would say calling someone a “racist” or a “bigot” is a “slur against a person”. Wouldn’t you?

        > We will not post racist, sexist or sexually explicit comments, obvious commercial promotion, off-topic comments or comments that constitute a slur against a person or group.


        > We will not publish comments that deride a person or group of people for their physical characteristics, and we will not post comments from “cyberbullies.”

        Do your duty.

        • No, that’s not a violation because it’s not a slur. Calling someone a racist is a character/behavior assessment. Calling someone an offensive term by virtue of their identity, some unchangeable part of who they are? Now that would rise to the level of a slur and a violation of our comments policy.

          • Amen…i mean, Jennifer i think this boils down once again to “SJOUTSIDETHEBUBBLE” right not to be hurt (by being called out a racist or bigot) is more important than someones right not to be hurt or offended (by the racist and bigoted BS he always is posting).

          • > Calling someone a racist is a character/behavior assessment.

            So, it is acceptable to San Jose Inside, the Metro newspapers, Jennifer Wadsworth, Josh Koehn, and Dan Pulcrano to use your publication to offer up a malicious public character/behavior assessment of a private, non-public person that disqualifies him or her for employment in most private jobs and every public job I can think of?

      • Ella Fino,

        Since you’re so confident in your generalities, could you please describe the typical street gang thug, the typical welfare mom, the typical illegal immigrant, the typical murderer, the typical robber, the typical other woman in the Clinton marriage (hint: big hair and fleshy), the typical Hillary lie (a tough one, I know), and the typical Clinton speaking fee.

        Oh, and by the way, thanks for the typically stupid comment.

        • Those other things are more variable – it is harder to characterize the “typical” one. But Trump supporters are relatively predictable and consistent in their positions. Except when it comes to being offended. For example, Bubbles called me the “Voice Of Prejudice” a few posts ago. Is that a character/behavior assessment he would call malicious now? Is that the same as calling someone racist? I am guessing he would call that the affirmative-action version of a malicious behavior assessment. Except he thinks affirmative action is racist. And yes, I know you are about to call this post yet another “typically stupid comment.” But you’ve gotta admit – even stupid comments like mine and Ella’s are not exactly like each other. Trump voters, on the other hand, seem to be clones.

          • Yall sound like a bunch of intolerant,bigoted liberals, Kaitln is a Trump supporter.
            Clinton drones can’t help themselves as they are all controlled by the Borg Queen.

          • Your unsupportable insistence that Trump supporters are of a type reveals your pathetic need to create a “them” to bolster the “us” to which you’ve attached your emotional loyalties. Perhaps had you a candidate who was more than just the latest detestable barker for the international oligarchy you wouldn’t feel this compulsion.

          • This would be hilarious Empty Gun except that millions of people plan to vote for Trump in November.

          • I’ll take some Freedom and Trump over the Borg Queen and her colletive of Dumb.
            I’m pro-choice on the bill of rights.

        • sooo, these are the carefully-crafted thoughts of an actual human being, someone whose mother undoubtedly loves him… but likely doesn’t know how he spends a lot of his time.

          From what one can discern in the hot minute if you spend time just reading Frustrateds posts (which are always filled with sexism, homophobia, and straight up racism) oh such a loving heart and good soul. Hit him up, ladies. Or gentlemen.

          • Ross,

            Am I supposed to say ouch? Sorry, your name calling may work with your sorority sisters — male and female, but not with me. My father raised me to be a man, and that I have always been, and that I have always found appreciated.

            Speaking of thoughts, do you ever have any, or are you always overwhelmed by your feelings?

          • Ross,
            Yes, finfan’s comments express the thoughts of a human being. You know. The species your party claims to respect and hold in such high regard. Problem is, he happens to belong to a minority group- one that has yet to be granted protected status by your clan- with which you disagree, and which you and your clan think it’s okay to ignore, to ridicule, and to discriminate against. Don’t worry though Ross. Your betrayal of your party’s putative ideals regarding such concepts as “diversity”, “tolerance”, and “open mindedness” won’t be acknowledged or even mentioned by your peers. It’s automatic amongst members of the ruling party and has come to be regarded as normal. You can spew your hatred to your hearts content and you’ll continue to get a free pass within that echo chamber you mistakenly think is America.
            You see Ross? We really do have a lot in common. Your side has just as much intolerance and bigotry as you imagine we have over here on the other side of the aisle.
            I’ll now take a page from the Democrat playbook and suggest that you consider enrolling in a course in diversity training in order that you might overcome your Trumpophobia.

  2. I’ve never even heard of these guys. Bruce/Kaitlin Jenner, yes I heard a lot about him/her (Gender is dependent on which time frame you wish to refer to them in)

    @SJO if we were to erect a Jenner statue, would we use Bruce or Kaitlin?

    • > @SJO if we were to erect a Jenner statue, would we use Bruce or Kaitlin?


      I think the dirty little secret is that Kaitlin is really still Bruce. I doubt that any snippage has taken place.

      In fact, it appears that actual snippage is quite rare among “transgenders”.

      From what I glean from the internet, “transgender” is mostly an “aspirational identity”.

      “Gender reassignment surgeries conducted in the United States each year: Between 100 and 500”

  3. I’m working on a statue representative of the racism of crime and the welfare state… it’s a defenseless white guy with both hands up and his pockets turned inside out.

    • FINFAN,

      I think your statue idea may have the makings of another iconic image. I am also designing a statue that could be placed on a podium next to yours. My statue is of a working class white guy with both fists held high in the air. In one, he holds an image of the bill for his daughter’s SJSU tuition and in the other he holds the image of an application for an “affirmative action” scholarship engraved with the words “rejected” across the front.

  4. Title IX and PC budget priorities killed the best athletic team SJSU ever had–men’s track and field.

  5. Can’t we please just have a PC Olympics, no racism, no sexism, no winning or lossing and everyone can go home feeling good and equil, like nothing happened. Competition is such a drag and I’m so board.

    We can call it Transitional Olympics, everything is a tie!

  6. Well, looks like Colin Kaepernick is going to be playing for the Baltimore Sharptons of the Inner City Football League.

    The tragedy of Kaepernick is that tribalists that he identifies with have so poisoned his perception of himself and his reality that it is IMPOSSIBLE for him to be happy and fulfilled in any undertaking, in any environment, anywhere.

    He is now, and likely for the rest of his life, an embittered victim of an unfair society, dominated by other tribes.

    Capitalism gave him opportunities offered to precious few, and he rejected them and chose tribalism.

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