- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Officials at a Northern California university said Friday that vandals may have damaged the statue of famed Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith, who became renowned for his iconic black-gloved fist salute during the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City.

A replica gold medal on the statue at San Jose State University, where Smith attended, was found missing Thursday with fragments of it scattered on its base, Pat Lopes Harris, a university spokeswoman, said Friday.

The incident is either an act of vandalism or a possible attempt to recycle what was assumed to be a valuable piece of metal, Harris said.

“We believe somebody tried to remove it, and we’re not sure why this was done,” Harris said. “We’re very concerned. It’s a very disheartening situation.”

Harris said campus police will review surveillance videos. The school did not have an immediate estimate for a new replica medal for the statue, which was erected in 2005 on the heart of campus.

The structure resembles Smith on the victory stand after he won a gold medal in the 200-meter sprint in the ‘68 games thrusting his right fist toward the sky to show support of the U.S. civil rights movement.

The Black Power salute shocked the sports world as Smith was banned from the Olympics, but the human rights protest eventually earned him international acclaim.

His statue stands alongside another statue featuring fellow Olympian and San Jose State track teammate John Carlos, who won a bronze medal in the same race.

That structure was not damaged.


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