Stand For Something Or Stand For Nothing

On October 15th in 1969 14 African American students were expelled from the University of Wyoming football team for expressing their opposition to bigotry and racism stemming from the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) church. The players protested playing a game with Brigham Young University (BYU) because of the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS ban on black men holding the priesthood in the church, and other racial restrictions. Mormons believe black people are cursed with the mark of Cain.

The Wyoming Cowboys had won three consecutive Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championships, and they were considered the best football team to ever play for the university in 1969.

The protest began on the 15th October 1969, after Willie Black, a math graduate student & head of Wyoming’s Black Student Alliance (BSA), brought a letter titled “We Must Protest,” to university administrators. The letter described the race issues of the Mormon church, including the priesthood restriction and other prohibitions, such as barring all black men and women from participating in temple rituals.

2 days before the game, the 14 players discussed options for how they might protest & they eventually settled on wearing black armbands but nonetheless compete in the game.

On October 17th, a day before the game, Coach Eaton ordered the players to the bleachers where he expelled them from the team, revoking their athletic scholarships. Having dismissed all the black players, the Cowboys became an all-white team.

The dismissal of the players brought unwanted local and national attention to the University. First, the UW Student Senate passed a resolution which said in part, “The actions of coach Eaton and the Board of Trustees were not only uncompromising, but unjust and wrong.” In response a number of athletes of all races wore black armbands in support including the entire San Jose State Team. The protest of the Fourteen eventually sparked nationwide focus on LDS church practices and other protests by student athletes. Despite their dismissal, several of the fourteen players received college degrees from Wyoming and other institutions.

There’s a short film about the incident available on Amazon Prime titled “Black 14”.

{This post was written by @AfricanArchives}

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