Their protest went down in history.
In 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists to the sky during the Olympic Games award ceremony - as a sign of protest against discrimination against blacks.
The protest caused quite a stir, but was prohibited by the guidelines of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Now, decades later, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) is pushing for more freedom of expression and is putting pressure on the IOC on protests against racism and social injustice.
According to the demand, US athletes should not be punished in the future at the Olympic Games, the Paralympics or the national elimination competitions if they demonstrate "respectfully" against grievances.
The USOPC working group also recommended adapting the controversial rule that currently bans these protests at the Olympic Games and Paralympics.
The fact that the USA is positioning itself so clearly as an Olympic heavyweight is a clear signal to the International Olympic Committee.
The United States, itself guilty of the suffering of the African American Smith, has been changing course for months.
And the word of the USA carries weight at the Olympics, more than that of any other nation.
Not only do most of the medal winners often come from the United States, most of the money also comes from sponsors and the TV station NBC flows from the USA to the accounts of President Thomas Bach's IOC.
And it can hardly be clearer than what was written on Thursday - Human Rights Day.
"Contradicts the key values"
"The mute of athletes during the Games stands in stark contrast to the importance of recognizing participants first as people and then as athletes," said the working group's letter of recommendation to the IOC.
"Banning athletes from freely expressing their point of view during the Games, especially those by historically underrepresented and inferior groups, helps dehumanize athletes and goes against key values of the Olympics and the Paralympics."
Since the death of the African-American George Floyd in May, who died at the hands of a white police officer, athletes in the USA have positioned themselves more clearly than ever against racism and against police violence against blacks.
In addition to stars from the big leagues like the NBA, the many smaller sports also want to be able to use their spotlights every four years.
There were positive comments from Germany when the US intentions first became known in the summer.
"The USOPC values the voices from Team USA and believes in their right to stand up for social justice and against racism," said USOPC Managing Director Sarah Hirshland.
Signs against racism: The players from Paris St. Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir FK protested together on Wednesday
Credit: AFP / XAVIER LAINE
According to Rule 50 of the IOC's Olympic Charter, all demonstrations and political, religious or racist messages are prohibited at the Olympics.
So far, the IOC had always emphasized that it would not allow any exceptions.
Most recently, IOC President Thomas Bach referred to the IOC Athletes Commission.
She should find out “in dialogue with her colleagues and athletes from all over the world” how athletes “can express their support in a dignified way,” said Bach in June.
Tommie Smith didn't have that kind of cover in Mexico.
Nevertheless, after his Olympic victory over 200 meters on the podium, he stretched his right fist in a black glove into the night sky - the symbol of the Black Power movement.
He also wore no shoes and only black socks as a symbol of poverty.
Bronze medalist and teammate John Carlos made the same gesture with his left arm.
The photos went around the world and the action became a milestone in the civil rights movement.