Some people (particularly IOC president Avery Brundage) felt that a political statement had no place in the international forum of the Olympic Games. In an immediate response to their actions, Smith and Carlos were suspended from the U.S. team by Brundage and voluntarily moved from the Olympic Village. Brundage, who was president of the United States Olympic Committee in 1936, had made no objections against Nazi salutes during the Berlin Olympics . Those who opposed the protest said the actions disgraced all Americans. Supporters, on the other hand, praised the men for their bravery. The men's gesture had lingering effects for all three athletes, the most serious of which were death threats against Carlos, Smith, and their families.
Even while attending Lemoore High School, Smith showed major potential, setting most of the school's track records, many of which remain. After graduating, Smith played professional football with the Cincinnati Bengals for three years. He later became a track coach at Oberlin College in Ohio, where he also taught sociology and until recently was a faculty member at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California.
During his career, Smith set seven individual world records and also was a member of several world-record relay teams at San Jose State. With world records of 10.1 for 100 meters, 19.83 for 200 and 44.5 for the 400, Smith still ranks high on the all-time lists. After his track career, he played professional football for one season, 1969, as a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals of the American Football League.
He became a member of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1978. In 1996, Smith was inducted into the California Black Sports Hall of Fame, and in 1999 he received that organization's Sportsman of the Millennium Award. In 2000 - 2001 the County of Los Angeles and the State of Texas presented Smith with Commendation, Recognition and Proclamation Awards.
For his life-long commitment to athletics, education, and human rights following his silent gesture of protest at the '68 Olympics in Mexico City, Smith received the Courage of Conscience Award from The Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts.
In July 2008, John Carlos and Tommie Smith accepted the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for their black-gloved fist salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The 2008 ESPY Awards were held at NOKIA Theatre L.A. on July 16, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
In August 2008, Tommie Smith gave 2008 Olympic triple gold winner Usain Bolt of Jamaica one of his shoes from the 1968 Olympics as a birthday gift.