No one asked why, and few tried to comprehend what factors would have led to such a protest statement. Still to this day, few are aware that the International Olympic Committee was headed by a self-proclaimed White Supremacist & Anti-Semite (Avery Brundage). Few were/are aware of the Olympic Committee's stance in favor of Apartheid, or their blatant refusal to hire Black workers-on a team made up of mostly Black Athletes. Most will remember that 1968 was one of the most turbulent & racially-divisive years in U.S History. That alone should be enough rationale.
Once back in the states, things just got worse. Finding employment proved very difficult; and their families were subjected to harassment for years. Their were no lucrative endorsement deals. Both made brief unsuccessful runs in the NFL; but essentially struggles well into mid 1980's. The lack of stable work-combined with the all too public drama-would even could John Carlos his marriage.
They are now considered as Heroes. Brave. Legendary.
Today both men can regularly be found on the public-speaking circuit; and both have published auto-biographies (“Silent Gesture” & "The John Carlos Story"). Tommie Smith would ultimately become a Sociology Professor at Santa Monica College & coached the Track Team until his retirement in 2005. John Carlos works as a counselor & is the In-School Suspension Supervisor at Palm Springs High School.