The Black Fourteen, occurring at theUniversity of Wyoming, involving fourteen black football athletes on theWyoming football team and their coach at the time, in an event to protest apolicy created by a Mormon Church1that prohibits blacks from holding priesthood. This is one of many events thatgoes unnoticed or not as relevant as the events that are taught in classrooms,written about in textbooks, and talked about in the media today, even though itoccurred many years ago.2This should not be the case, no matter if it’s occurring right in our backyardor a thousand miles away, it is inclusive in forming the history we know today.Everything that happened in the past, especially pertaining to AfricanAmericans, shouldn’t be swept under the rug, it should be discussed so that menand women of the African American community can have a better understanding asto what events led them to today, no matter how big or small it may have beenor whether it affected them directly or indirectly, every little thing matterswhen it comes to history in making our present and future. With that beingsaid, in this research paper, I want to examine what events occurred in theBlack 14, how the Black 14 event changed Wyoming football forever, and how thisevent impacted people nationwide/worldwide compared to protests today. It was Friday, October 17, 1969,there were 14 black athletes on the University of Wyoming football team.
Thesemen go by the name of: Jerry Berry, Tony Gibson, John Griffin, Lionel Grimes,Mel Hamilton, Ron Hill, Willie Hysaw, Jim Isaac, Earl Lee, Don Meadows, TonyMcGee, Ivie Moore, Joe Williams, and Ted Williams. The men went into theircoaches, Lloyd Eaton’s office wearing black armbands. There reason for wearingthese armbands was because they wanted to support the Black Student Allianceeffort in Laramie and show solidarity with the national movement.3So as a result, they wanted to talk to their coach about wearing their armbandsduring their game against Brigham Young University to protest their MormonChurch policy that prohibits blacks from holding priesthood (becoming priest).4It ended with the University of Wyoming’s coach telling them they weren’tallowed to wear the black armbands, and he kicked them off the team. Not tomention, the topic of the fourteen black football players wearing blackarmbands during their game against Brigham Young University was brought to thecoach’s attention twice. The first time was one-on-one with the coach and oneof the members from the black 14, Joe Williams. The coach’s initial thoughtabout the situation was that if the black players really had a problem with theway they were being treated by the Brigham Young University, then they shouldtake their anger out on them on the football field.
5The second time was with all the of the Black 14 members. Reason being wasbecause after being denied the first time, the Black 14 discussed the situationwith one another before talking to their coach again; since they still wantedto wear their armbands, they decided to wear them inside of the coach’s officein an attempt to get him to change his mind and allow them to follow throughwith their silent and harmless protest. It turns out that it didn’t go as theyplanned and they ended up getting kicked off the team. Even one of the membersfrom the Black 14 asked another member if he thought the coach would put themoff the team and he said yes, and it turns out that’s exactly what happened.
However, prior to being kicked offthe team, the coach, Lloyd Eaton, escorted the fourteen men out of his officeand took them to the bleachers on the football field. He said to them, “Fellas,I’m going to save you a lot of time and trouble, you’re through. As of now youare no longer Wyoming Cowboy football players.
” My initial thought after readingthat he kicked them off the team was that it’s ridiculous because at least theyhad the respect for their coach to ask for permission before going forth withtheir plan to protest the racist policy against blacks. However, as I continuedto do more research, for him to kick them off the team started to make sense tome even though it was still not right. It was weird to me that he didn’t justlet them sit out for that game, but instead he kicked them off the team. So, duringmy research, I found tons of information on coach Eaton, he came from a verydisciplined background. When it came to his household, his parents reallyweren’t heavy with the disciplinary measures because he grew up being taughtthat if someone asks you to do something then you do it, no questions asked,and vice versa when someone tells you not to do something6. So,if you disobeyed what was being asked of you, in this case the fourteen blackmen were asked not to wear the black armbands, then you would have to deal withthe consequences, which for the black football players they were kicked off theteam. With the background that coach Eaton had, it made it hard to not believethat he would do something as far as kicking members off the team, even thoughthey didn’t get the chance to do what they wanted to do, it was just that theyasked again after the coach said no the first time. Moreover, as things started to geteven harder to process mentally, especially for the Black 14 members, theydecided that people of higher authority needed to get involved to resolve thisentire issue before matters get worse than they already were.
Every meetingthat the black 14 attended were all directed towards them to convince them tochange their minds about wearing the armbands to protest Brigham Young University;they didn’t want them to throw their lives away. The people conducting thismeeting, were saying that it was all the men’s fault and they would not negotiate,and their minds were made up. But the black 14 thought that if their coach wasin the meeting, then things would’ve turned out differently.
On October 29, acivil lawsuit, “Williams vs. Eaton,” was filed in U.S. District Court inCheyenne on behalf of the Black 14, naming the State of Wyoming, the Board ofTrustees, Jacoby, Carlson and Eaton as defendants and seeking $1.1 million in damages.7An injunction was also sought in Cheyenne to reinstate the players, but thatwas quickly denied by U.S.
District Judge Ewing T. Kerr. One of the membersfrom the Black 14, Mel Hamilton said, “I imagine there were people in thatgroup who were not ready for that fight. You’ve got to know yourself and youhave to be ready to fight. That was my right of passage.
… The judge just laughed at our lawyer fromDetroit (Waterman) and called him boy and used derogatory comments. We felt itwas a sham and a kangaroo court.”8On November 17, 1969, judge Ewing Kerr entered an order denying the Black 14’sapplication for a temporary restraining order restoring them to the team. TheBlack 14 therein filed their notice of appeal to the U.S.
10th Circuit Court ofAppeals.9On March 25, 1970, Kerr dismissed the case. On May 14, 1972, the U.S. 10thCircuit Court of Appeals in Denver supported the lower court’s decision todismiss. The Black 14 did not seek to appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court.10While they lost every battle against the courts, they didn’t lose what their wholefight was for. It turns out that the Mormon church changed its policy. On June9, 1978, Spencer W. Kimball, the president of the Mormon Church, received arevelation from God and changed church policy to provide that worthy black malemembers of the church may hold the priesthood.11 Furthermore,the players from the University of Wyoming weren’t the only team that the BYUhad to deal with in terms of protests. For instance, On October 25, 1969, SanJose State’s players wore multi-colored armbands in support of the Black 14during a game at War Memorial Stadium.
12 InNovember, they boycotted a home against BYU and “only 2,800 fans ‘bravedthreats of disruption and demonstration.”13 Ayear later, in April, there were black track athletes at the University ofTexas in El Paso who were kicked off the team when they refused to participatein a meet with Provo, Utah, which is where Brigham Young University is located.14Lastly, in early October that same year, there was a story written in theWyoming newspaper reporting that an Arizona State black student group askedblack students to boycott the Sun Devil’s Western Athletic Conference gameagainst Brigham Young University due to alleged discrimination against blacksat BYU.15 Lastly,after the incident with the Black 14 was over, the whole ordeal between thefourteen black football players and their coach changed everything for otherblack players, along with it tarnishing coach Eaton’s career as a coach andlegacy that he had in being the best coach to have a team that was undefeated.
It turns out the University of Wyoming football was no longer undefeated, losingto Arizona State, Utah, New Mexico, and Houston.16Also, others who weren’t involved in the Black 14 incident were also affectedby what happened. For example, Larry “Bo” Nels, a football player that wasrecruited to the Wyoming football team, was stripped of his opportunity to playin the Senior Bowl and the Hula Bowl after the 1969 season to show off hisskills for pro scouts.17His name ended up being removed from the rosters of the all-star games afterthe Black 14 incident, not because he was black (he was white), but it wasbecause he was associated with the members of the Black 14 being that he was onthat same team that the former members were on. As a result, no one wantedanything to do with anyone from the University of Wyoming football team toavoid any protests or controversies that came with the Black 14 incident. Thiseventually led to other things that interfered with other members who were onthe team and their opportunities that could’ve changed their life in playingprofessional football.In comparison to the Black 14, theprotests that are occurring today that are targeting African Americans, mostlymen, it’s no different than the unfair treatment that the Black 14 had endureyears ago.
For example, I feel like the Black 14 relates to protests today inthe sense that no one really wants to focus on why the protest started in thefirst place, they just focus on what happened. We live in a world where whathappened is more important than why it happened because no one wants to deal withthe situation at hand to make it better. And like many of protests today, theBlack 14 incident was their way of fighting for their civil rights, since a lotof the rights that we have today doesn’t necessarily apply to people of color.It’s like once a person of color is involved, in most cases, certain rightsjust aren’t applied anymore. In particular, freedom of speech, once a person ofcolor expresses their right to free speech, majority of the time, if not everytime, they will suffer some type of consequence, whether it be jail time orsomething worse and it’s all because our skin color poses a threat to those whosee people of color as inferior.
This can be related to the incident thathappened in 2015 with University of Virginia student, Martese Johnson. Johnsonjust wanted to voice his opinion on the issues with African Americans and lawenforcement at the time. In his announcement to speak on injustice that thepolice had towards blacks, there were no words that would promote an act ofviolence, yet he ended up in handcuffs with a bloody face because of police.18This just gives people the impression that there are no equal rights and thatthe laws are just written on a piece of paper and it doesn’t apply to everyone.Another example would be of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ersfootball player. While many people believed that Kaepernick was protesting theflag and disrespecting people of the military, that wasn’t the case. Instead,he was protesting police brutality against African Americans, the lack ofaccountability the police take for these acts of violence, and just racism ingeneral.
19If people weren’t so focused on the things that can physically be seen,Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem, instead actually listening towhy he was kneeling each time, then a lot more people would gain more respectfor Kaepernick than they did prior to this protest. Reason being because forhim to do a stunt like this in hopes for a change for the better was a risk in itselfbecause he put his career and future on the line all to raise awareness to whatpeople purposefully ignore. In contrast, the Black 14 didn’treally have much of an impact on the world compared to Colin Kaepernick’sprotest, however it did have an impact on some of the people outside ofWyoming, but most of which resided in Wyoming.
The Black 14 incident resultedin a handful of protesters protesting outside the gates of a game toparticipate in the Black Students Alliance demonstration. The police ended upconfiscating the protester’s signs as they entered the stadium for a game. Notonly that, but there were others who were already in the crowd inside thestadium chanting “We love Eaton!” over and over again.20Also, many of the Black 14 members ended up coming to this game even though theyno longer were on the team, they just still wanted to show their support forthe former team and teammates.
While at the game, they couldn’t help but noticethat there was a man in the top row of the bleachers waving a big confederateflag in which the members brought it to the police’s attention and the policeresponse was, “Free speech.”21To continue, in terms of Colin Kaepernick and his protest, he gave NFL playersmore of an awareness of how much power they have with just their voice, theywere more than just athletes, they were people could make a difference in theworld just like him. Not only did Kaepernick give his opinions on policebrutality and social injustice, but he started a worldwide conversation that attime caused a lot of debates. The impact that he had on people eventually ledothers to speak on police brutality. For example, Michael Bennett of theSeattle Seahawks went public to talk about a terrifying incident that he hadgone through in Las Vegas with the police. The police had handcuffed him andheld a gun to his head after he was leaving a Mayweather and McGregor fightthat night.
Michael Bennett recalled feeling “helpless as he laid on the groundhandcuffed facing the threat of being killed” and in a post on Twitter he said,”All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black,and my skin color is somehow a threat.”22 Inthe end Michael Bennett was released after the police identified and confirmedwho he was and left him without a legitimate explanation for the police’sabusive conduct.Ultimately, expressing one’s opinionin a setting that is publicized is something that is frowned upon, especiallyif it’s of a person of an athletic demeanor. It’s expected for athletes to juststick to sports and not touch base on topics that are real life situations thatwe are facing today.
People like the members of the Black 14 felt like it wastheir duty and right to use their platform to make others aware of theinjustice of the Mormon Church policy by protesting Brigham Young University intheir upcoming game against them, since the policy at the time was racist towardsblacks. It turns out that history has its way of repeating itself because theBlack 14 weren’t the only ones that used their platform to promote change forthe better. We have athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett who usedtheir voices to speak on the issues we face today, which turns out isn’t sodifferent than the issues we had to deal with in the 1960s and even before then,when it comes to the unjust treatment towards African Americans. BibliographyAlcindor, Yamiche. “BloodyArrest of Black Student Leads to Investigation.” USA Today.
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1 TheMormon church is called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, whichfunded Brigham Young University.2 Peoplelike Martin L. King Jr., Malcolm X, and other historical black figures andevents are still talked about today.
3 “TheUniversity of Wyoming Apologizes to the “Black 14″.” The Journalof Blacks in Higher Education, no. 38 (2003): 51.4 White,Phil. “The Black 14: Race, Politics, Religion and Wyoming Football.
“The Black 14: Race, Politics, Religion and Wyoming Football | WyoHistory.org.Accessed October 16, 2017.5 Thorburn,Ryan. Black 14: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Wyoming Football. Boulder, CO:Burning Daylight, 2009.
6 Hewas in the military as well. Thorburn, Ryan. Black 14: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Wyoming Football. Boulder,CO: Burning Daylight, 2009.7 Barrett, James E.
“The Black14: Williams v. Eaton A Personal Recollection.” The Black 14. AccessedOctober 16, 2017.8 Barrett, James E. “The Black 14: Williams v. Eaton APersonal Recollection.” The Black 14.
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Boulder,CO: Burning Daylight, 2009.12 “PopularResearch Topics: Black 14.” University of Wyoming | American HeritageCenter | Research Services | Popular Research Topics. Accessed October 14,2017. 13 “PopularResearch Topics: Black 14.
” University of Wyoming | American HeritageCenter | Research Services | Popular Research Topics. Accessed October 14,2017. 14 “PopularResearch Topics: Black 14.” University of Wyoming | American HeritageCenter | Research Services | Popular Research Topics. Accessed October 14,2017.
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Black14: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Wyoming Football. Boulder, CO: BurningDaylight, 2009.17 Thorburn,Ryan. Black 14: The Rise, Fall, andRebirth of Wyoming Football. Boulder, CO: Burning Daylight, 2009.
18 Alcindor,Yamiche. “Bloody Arrest of Black Student Leads to Investigation.” USAToday. Gannett, 20 Mar. 2015.
Web. 25 Nov. 2017.19 Wyche,Steve. “Colin Kaepernick explains why he sat during national anthem.”NFL.
com. August 17, 2016. Accessed December 01, 2017. 20 “The University of WyomingApologizes to the “Black 14″.” The Journal of Blacks in HigherEducation, no.
38 (2003): 51.21 “The University of Wyoming Apologizes to the “Black14″.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 38 (2003): 51. 22 Dubin,Jared.
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