Michael Johnson releases new podcast examining the history of protest in sport

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Photo credit: HASLIN Frederic - Getty Images
Photo credit: HASLIN Frederic - Getty Images

Michael Johnson has released a new podcast, Defiance, which explores the history of protest in sport and its power to bring about social change.

The former sprinter and four-time Olympic gold medal winner, who has held world and Olympic records in the 200m and 400m, speaks to athletes who have protested against social inequality.

This includes track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who at the 1968 Olympics, stood on the podium and lifted their fists in the air to protest against racial injustice – a moment which resulted in threats made on their lives and marked the end of Smith’s running career.

Talking about the podcast in an interview with the BBC, Johnsons said: ‘This series has made me think ­­– if I was an athlete today, when this fight is ongoing and it's brought to our doorstep – would I risk it all?

‘In the 1990s it was a very different time to what we're living in now. We weren't fighting for those things then, the fight didn't exist, it probably should have.

‘We were lulled to sleep with the idea that we were in a good place – our parents fought for these rights that we have now and civil rights and we thought we were in a good place. Now we see, we weren't, we should've been fighting.’

In the new documentary-style podcast series, Johnson honours athletes new and old who have bravely spoken truth to power, such as US Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry who was placed on 12-month probation for protesting systematic racism and police brutality at the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru earlier this year. At the time, Johnson shared his support of Berry's right to protest on Twitter, but received backlash from followers who criticised Berry’s demonstration.

In Defiance, Johnson examines why ‘sticking to sports’ should never be an option for athletes like Berry and assesses what the history of protest in competition can teach us about society moving forward.

You can download the podcast on Audible here

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