BYU, Wyoming football teams honor Black athletes barred from protesting racial inequity in 1969
14 Black players were cut from Wyoming's football team for wanting to wear black armbands during a 1969 BYU game.
Before kickoff in Saturday evening’s football matchup between Brigham Young University (BYU) and Wyoming University, commemorations were held honoring a group of 14 African-American student athletes who were cut from the Wyoming roster in 1969 after planning to protest a policy banning Black men from becoming priests in the church of Latter-day Saints.
When Wyoming’s Black Student Alliance in 1969 developed the idea to use an upcoming game against BYU as the stage to protest the rule, 14 Black players on the team expressed interest in wearing black armbands during the game in support. They were subsequently kicked off the team by then-coach Lloyd Eaton, per ESPN.
Five decades later, after members of the group now known as the “Black 14” reconnected with former BYU football players to discuss the ordeal, a food delivery initiative was formed in partnership between Latter-day Saint charities and a philanthropic group led by Black 14 members, according to the report.
The joint effort provided over 800,000 pounds of food to underserved communities in the home states of eight Black 14 members, as reported by ABC 4.
“It took me years to share my story, I was angry for 10 years,” reads a statement from Black 14 member John Griffin, who, along with fellow Black 14 member Mel Hamilton, was honored during pregame proceedings on Saturday, per ESPN.
Griffin and Hamilton, who had not returned to BYU’s LaVell Edwards Stadium since the 1968 matchup between the two schools, spent the week giving multiple presentations and participating in discussion forums on campus at BYU, the outlet reported.
BYU coaching staff, team members and the public this week attended showings of a student-produced documentary following the Black 14 and LDS charities’ partnership work, per ESPN.
“What we decided to do, and when Mel reached out to [former BYU quarterback] Gifford Nielsen, was develop a partnership that dealt with giving back food to those who are in need,” Griffin said.
“That relationship has grown into something pretty darn special,” he continued. “If you look at what happened to us in 1969, you could say now that it was a tragedy turned into philanthropy. That’s in essence what we’ve done, and we aren’t done yet.”
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