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WASHINGTON (AP) – Shortly after Jesse Owens returned from his snubbing by Adolph Hitler at the 1936 Olympics, he and the 17 other African-Americans on the US team found a less-than-welcoming reception from their own government, as well.
On Thursday, relatives of those African-American Olympians who competed at the Berlin Games will be welcomed to the White House and will get to shake the president’s hand – an honor Owens and the others didn’t receive, the way some of their white counterparts did, after they returned home 80 years ago.
US Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun announced the visit Wednesday night at a Team USA Awards ceremony.
“That is why I’m here 80 years later, to recognize the senselessness (of not inviting them to the White House), and to pay tribute to all the progress that has come since,’’ Blackmun said.
The announcement came on the same night the USOC invited Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who were booted from the 1968 Olympics for their gloved-fist protest on the medals stand, to be part of the awards show. Smith and Carlos hadn’t been involved in an official USOC event since being sent home from Mexico City.