The year 1968 goes down as one of the most tumultuous and politically-charged in modern U.S. history.
Vietnam War casualties were at their height, protest movements raged, both Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated — and the Summer Olympic Games headed south of the border to Mexico City amid social unrest and protests in the country.
Tennis star and former Olympian Serena Williams gives viewers a special insight into that pivotal period in new NBC documentary, “1968,” showcasing how the Mexico City Games became a stage for a powerful collision of sport and politics.
The Games became synonymous with Black Power salutes after American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos took to the podium in black socks without shoes and civil rights badges, lowered their heads and defiantly raised black-gloved fists as the national anthem played. While the gesture is now celebrated, the athletes were dismissed from the team immediately afterwards and sent home.
“1968” also looks at Czechoslovakian gymnast Vera Caslavska,who protested the Soviet invasion by looking away as the Soviet national anthem played during her medal ceremonies. She too faced harsh criticism for speaking out, and struggled for years in the aftermath.
The film features interviews with NBA icon and cultural ambassador Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who protested the 1968 Games; heavyweight champion George Foreman, who took home a gold medal; civil rights activist Harry Edwards, who led the Olympic Project for Human Rights; along with Emmy Award-winning journalist Tom Brokaw.
“1968” will air an NBCSN, Sunday, Feb. 25, as part of a three-hour documentary block beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET. It will also be available streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming platforms for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs.
Watch the trailer above.