Olympic champion sprinter Lee Evans has died.
He was 74.
Evans won two sprinting gold medals at the 1968 Olympics. However, his bold protest against racial injustice on the Olympic podium made the most impact.
Along with fellow athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Evans almost boycotted the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. Smith and Carlos were removed from the U.S. team after lowering their heads and raising their fists on the podium in protest.
“I looked and said, ‘What are they doing?'” Evans told RecordNet in 2016. “I started hearing people booing. I didn’t get the feeling to boo them but it offended some people because they started booing. I was shocked by the reaction of everybody.”
He almost didn’t run.
“That really upset me,” Evans said. “They went to San Jose State just like I did. I considered not running, but I ran.”
Evans made history at the games, finishing the 400-meter dash with a time of 43.86, shattering his previous record of 44.06. On the podium, Lee took a stand by donning a black beret and raising his fist. Medalists Larry James and Ron Freeman also raised their fists. The beret, a tribute to the Black Panther Party.
Evans won five U.S. titles throughout his career and is a member of both the USATF and U.S. Olympic halls of fame.
Evans also spent time in Africa coaching national teams in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Until his passing, he was coaching high school track in Lagos.