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Tommie Smith and John Carlos praise Carmelo Anthony's activism, "attitude of truth"

Melo earned the respect of two civil rights icons.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Few athletes in American history are as famous for taking a stand against injustice as Tommie Smith and John Carlos. The two sprinters won gold and bronze, respectively, at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and used their moment on the medal stand to make a statement about race relations in America. You may have seen their photo once or twice:

The two civil rights icons were interviewed by The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears about modern athlete activism, and Carlos singled out Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony:

Carlos said he is impressed by the socially conscious Anthony's "attitude of truth."

"He is direct, very direct. And there is truth in [being] direct because there is purpose," he said. "Carmelo Anthony, he has always been out there doing what he feels is necessary. But it wasn't as strong until he adapted an avenue that brought back what has already been done in the Smith and Carlos stand in Mexico City and our belief in education. I think he is going to continue with the programs that he has going with the athletes he has involved. The truth he tells like it should be told, so the other people can see themselves in what he is doing. It's a bit like the old times."

Smith went on to praise the recent work of Melo, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, calling the movement "a lifelong relay." He and Carlos hope Melo and Team USA use their time at the Olympics to make a statement. IOC Rule 50 prohibits any political or religious statements during the Games -- in '68, Smith and Carlos were thrown out of the Olympic Village after their demonstration.

For his part, Melo seems more focused on getting his teammates to the medal stand:

"If I wanted to do something, I'd do it. I wouldn't let nothing hold me back. But I know I got a group of guys that got my back and need me there for them. The message I want to send is us standing on that medal stand united with them putting that gold medal around our neck despite everything that is going on in our country."

Even if he doesn't use the Olympics as a platform, Melo's activism has already earned the respect of two legends of the movement. That has to mean a great deal to him.