FEDERAL MPs last night debated a motion raised by Federal Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh to apologise posthumously to one of Australia’s most controversial athletes, Peter Norman.
Norman, who won silver in the 200m sprints at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games and died in 2006, caused controversy when he stood in support of two African-American athletes as they gave a black power salute during the medal ceremony.
Leigh says the move sent a powerful message to the world about racial equality, and believes Norman’s courageous stance “got him blocked from competing in subsequent Olympics”.
“What is clear is that in 1972, Norman consistently ran qualifying times for the 100 and 200 metres, but was not sent,” he said.
“It is also clear that he never complained about his treatment.”
Leigh says debating the motion in parliament yesterday was an emotional time.
“Sometimes you get to do something in parliament that puts a lump in your throat,” he said.
“Seeing the smile on the face of 91 year-old Thelma Norman after parliament debated my motion about her late son was one of those moments.
“Whether refusing to tolerate a racist joke or befriending a new migrant, each of us can – and all of us should – be a Peter Norman in our own lives.”
A spokesperson for Leigh says Labor is “not opposing” the motion.
The Australian Olympic Committee reportedly does not believe it should apologise to Norman as they “never had a problem with him.”
Leigh says he believed the apology was necessary after reading an article in “The Monthly” magazine about Norman recently.