The with the national movement.[3] So as a

The Black Fourteen, occurring at the
University of Wyoming, involving fourteen black football athletes on the
Wyoming football team and their coach at the time, in an event to protest a
policy created by a Mormon Church1
that prohibits blacks from holding priesthood. This is one of many events that
goes 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 it
occurred many years ago.2
This should not be the case, no matter if it’s occurring right in our backyard
or a thousand miles away, it is inclusive in forming the history we know today.
Everything that happened in the past, especially pertaining to African
Americans, shouldn’t be swept under the rug, it should be discussed so that men
and women of the African American community can have a better understanding as
to what events led them to today, no matter how big or small it may have been
or whether it affected them directly or indirectly, every little thing matters
when it comes to history in making our present and future. With that being
said, in this research paper, I want to examine what events occurred in the
Black 14, how the Black 14 event changed Wyoming football forever, and how this
event 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. These
men 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, Tony
McGee, Ivie Moore, Joe Williams, and Ted Williams. The men went into their
coaches, Lloyd Eaton’s office wearing black armbands. There reason for wearing
these armbands was because they wanted to support the Black Student Alliance
effort in Laramie and show solidarity with the national movement.3
So as a result, they wanted to talk to their coach about wearing their armbands
during their game against Brigham Young University to protest their Mormon
Church policy that prohibits blacks from holding priesthood (becoming priest).4
It ended with the University of Wyoming’s coach telling them they weren’t
allowed to wear the black armbands, and he kicked them off the team. Not to
mention, the topic of the fourteen black football players wearing black
armbands during their game against Brigham Young University was brought to the
coach’s attention twice. The first time was one-on-one with the coach and one
of the members from the black 14, Joe Williams. The coach’s initial thought
about the situation was that if the black players really had a problem with the
way they were being treated by the Brigham Young University, then they should
take their anger out on them on the football field.5
The second time was with all the of the Black 14 members. Reason being was
because after being denied the first time, the Black 14 discussed the situation
with one another before talking to their coach again; since they still wanted
to wear their armbands, they decided to wear them inside of the coach’s office
in an attempt to get him to change his mind and allow them to follow through
with their silent and harmless protest. It turns out that it didn’t go as they
planned and they ended up getting kicked off the team. Even one of the members
from the Black 14 asked another member if he thought the coach would put them
off the team and he said yes, and it turns out that’s exactly what happened.

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However, prior to being kicked off
the team, the coach, Lloyd Eaton, escorted the fourteen men out of his office
and 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 you
are no longer Wyoming Cowboy football players.” My initial thought after reading
that he kicked them off the team was that it’s ridiculous because at least they
had the respect for their coach to ask for permission before going forth with
their plan to protest the racist policy against blacks. However, as I continued
to do more research, for him to kick them off the team started to make sense to
me even though it was still not right. It was weird to me that he didn’t just
let them sit out for that game, but instead he kicked them off the team. So, during
my research, I found tons of information on coach Eaton, he came from a very
disciplined background. When it came to his household, his parents really
weren’t heavy with the disciplinary measures because he grew up being taught
that 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 black
men were asked not to wear the black armbands, then you would have to deal with
the consequences, which for the black football players they were kicked off the
team. With the background that coach Eaton had, it made it hard to not believe
that he would do something as far as kicking members off the team, even though
they didn’t get the chance to do what they wanted to do, it was just that they
asked again after the coach said no the first time.

Moreover, as things started to get
even harder to process mentally, especially for the Black 14 members, they
decided that people of higher authority needed to get involved to resolve this
entire issue before matters get worse than they already were. Every meeting
that the black 14 attended were all directed towards them to convince them to
change their minds about wearing the armbands to protest Brigham Young University;
they didn’t want them to throw their lives away. The people conducting this
meeting, 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 was
in the meeting, then things would’ve turned out differently. On October 29, a
civil lawsuit, “Williams vs. Eaton,” was filed in U.S. District Court in
Cheyenne on behalf of the Black 14, naming the State of Wyoming, the Board of
Trustees, Jacoby, Carlson and Eaton as defendants and seeking $1.1 million in damages.7
An injunction was also sought in Cheyenne to reinstate the players, but that
was quickly denied by U.S. District Judge Ewing T. Kerr. One of the members
from the Black 14, Mel Hamilton said, “I imagine there were people in that
group who were not ready for that fight. You’ve got to know yourself and you
have to be ready to fight. That was my right of passage.…  The judge just laughed at our lawyer from
Detroit (Waterman) and called him boy and used derogatory comments. We felt it
was a sham and a kangaroo court.”8
On November 17, 1969, judge Ewing Kerr entered an order denying the Black 14’s
application for a temporary restraining order restoring them to the team. The
Black 14 therein filed their notice of appeal to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of
Appeals.9
On March 25, 1970, Kerr dismissed the case. On May 14, 1972, the U.S. 10th
Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver supported the lower court’s decision to
dismiss. The Black 14 did not seek to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.10
While they lost every battle against the courts, they didn’t lose what their whole
fight was for. It turns out that the Mormon church changed its policy. On June
9, 1978, Spencer W. Kimball, the president of the Mormon Church, received a
revelation from God and changed church policy to provide that worthy black male
members of the church may hold the priesthood.11

            Furthermore,
the players from the University of Wyoming weren’t the only team that the BYU
had to deal with in terms of protests. For instance, On October 25, 1969, San
Jose State’s players wore multi-colored armbands in support of the Black 14
during a game at War Memorial Stadium.12 In
November, they boycotted a home against BYU and “only 2,800 fans ‘braved
threats of disruption and demonstration.”13 A
year later, in April, there were black track athletes at the University of
Texas in El Paso who were kicked off the team when they refused to participate
in a meet with Provo, Utah, which is where Brigham Young University is located.14
Lastly, in early October that same year, there was a story written in the
Wyoming newspaper reporting that an Arizona State black student group asked
black students to boycott the Sun Devil’s Western Athletic Conference game
against Brigham Young University due to alleged discrimination against blacks
at BYU.15

            Lastly,
after the incident with the Black 14 was over, the whole ordeal between the
fourteen black football players and their coach changed everything for other
black players, along with it tarnishing coach Eaton’s career as a coach and
legacy 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, losing
to Arizona State, Utah, New Mexico, and Houston.16
Also, others who weren’t involved in the Black 14 incident were also affected
by what happened. For example, Larry “Bo” Nels, a football player that was
recruited to the Wyoming football team, was stripped of his opportunity to play
in the Senior Bowl and the Hula Bowl after the 1969 season to show off his
skills for pro scouts.17
His name ended up being removed from the rosters of the all-star games after
the Black 14 incident, not because he was black (he was white), but it was
because he was associated with the members of the Black 14 being that he was on
that same team that the former members were on. As a result, no one wanted
anything to do with anyone from the University of Wyoming football team to
avoid any protests or controversies that came with the Black 14 incident. This
eventually led to other things that interfered with other members who were on
the team and their opportunities that could’ve changed their life in playing
professional football.

In comparison to the Black 14, the
protests that are occurring today that are targeting African Americans, mostly
men, it’s no different than the unfair treatment that the Black 14 had endure
years ago. For example, I feel like the Black 14 relates to protests today in
the sense that no one really wants to focus on why the protest started in the
first place, they just focus on what happened. We live in a world where what
happened is more important than why it happened because no one wants to deal with
the situation at hand to make it better. And like many of protests today, the
Black 14 incident was their way of fighting for their civil rights, since a lot
of 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 rights
just aren’t applied anymore. In particular, freedom of speech, once a person of
color expresses their right to free speech, majority of the time, if not every
time, they will suffer some type of consequence, whether it be jail time or
something worse and it’s all because our skin color poses a threat to those who
see people of color as inferior. This can be related to the incident that
happened in 2015 with University of Virginia student, Martese Johnson. Johnson
just wanted to voice his opinion on the issues with African Americans and law
enforcement at the time. In his announcement to speak on injustice that the
police had towards blacks, there were no words that would promote an act of
violence, yet he ended up in handcuffs with a bloody face because of police.18
This just gives people the impression that there are no equal rights and that
the 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 49ers
football player. While many people believed that Kaepernick was protesting the
flag and disrespecting people of the military, that wasn’t the case. Instead,
he was protesting police brutality against African Americans, the lack of
accountability the police take for these acts of violence, and just racism in
general.19
If people weren’t so focused on the things that can physically be seen,
Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem, instead actually listening to
why he was kneeling each time, then a lot more people would gain more respect
for Kaepernick than they did prior to this protest. Reason being because for
him to do a stunt like this in hopes for a change for the better was a risk in itself
because he put his career and future on the line all to raise awareness to what
people purposefully ignore.

In contrast, the Black 14 didn’t
really have much of an impact on the world compared to Colin Kaepernick’s
protest, however it did have an impact on some of the people outside of
Wyoming, but most of which resided in Wyoming. The Black 14 incident resulted
in a handful of protesters protesting outside the gates of a game to
participate in the Black Students Alliance demonstration. The police ended up
confiscating the protester’s signs as they entered the stadium for a game. Not
only that, but there were others who were already in the crowd inside the
stadium chanting “We love Eaton!” over and over again.20
Also, many of the Black 14 members ended up coming to this game even though they
no longer were on the team, they just still wanted to show their support for
the former team and teammates. While at the game, they couldn’t help but notice
that there was a man in the top row of the bleachers waving a big confederate
flag in which the members brought it to the police’s attention and the police
response was, “Free speech.”21
To continue, in terms of Colin Kaepernick and his protest, he gave NFL players
more of an awareness of how much power they have with just their voice, they
were more than just athletes, they were people could make a difference in the
world just like him. Not only did Kaepernick give his opinions on police
brutality and social injustice, but he started a worldwide conversation that at
time caused a lot of debates. The impact that he had on people eventually led
others to speak on police brutality. For example, Michael Bennett of the
Seattle Seahawks went public to talk about a terrifying incident that he had
gone through in Las Vegas with the police. The police had handcuffed him and
held a gun to his head after he was leaving a Mayweather and McGregor fight
that night. Michael Bennett recalled feeling “helpless as he laid on the ground
handcuffed 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 In
the end Michael Bennett was released after the police identified and confirmed
who he was and left him without a legitimate explanation for the police’s
abusive conduct.

Ultimately, expressing one’s opinion
in a setting that is publicized is something that is frowned upon, especially
if it’s of a person of an athletic demeanor. It’s expected for athletes to just
stick to sports and not touch base on topics that are real life situations that
we are facing today. People like the members of the Black 14 felt like it was
their duty and right to use their platform to make others aware of the
injustice of the Mormon Church policy by protesting Brigham Young University in
their upcoming game against them, since the policy at the time was racist towards
blacks. It turns out that history has its way of repeating itself because the
Black 14 weren’t the only ones that used their platform to promote change for
the better. We have athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett who used
their voices to speak on the issues we face today, which turns out isn’t so
different 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.

 

 

Bibliography

Alcindor, Yamiche. “Bloody
Arrest of Black Student Leads to Investigation.” USA Today. Gannett, 20
Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2017.

Barrett, James E. “The Black
14: Williams v. Eaton A Personal Recollection.” The Black 14. Accessed
October 16, 2017.

 

Dubin, Jared. “Seahawks’
Michael Bennett details harrowing story of racial profiling in Las Vegas.”
Seahawks’ Michael Bennett details harrowing story of racial profiling in Las
Vegas – CBSSports.com. September 06, 2017. Accessed December 04, 2017.

 

“Popular Research Topics: Black
14.” University of Wyoming | American Heritage Center | Research Services
| Popular Research Topics. Accessed October 14, 2017.

 

“The
University of Wyoming Apologizes to the “Black 14″.” The Journal
of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 38 (2003): 51.

 

Thorburn,
Ryan. Black 14: The Rise, Fall, and
Rebirth of Wyoming Football. Boulder, CO: Burning Daylight, 2009.

 

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.

 

Wyche, Steve. “Colin Kaepernick
explains why he sat during national anthem.” NFL.com. August 17, 2016.
Accessed December 01, 2017.

 

 

 

 

1 The
Mormon church is called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which
funded Brigham Young University.

2 People
like Martin L. King Jr., Malcolm X, and other historical black figures and
events are still talked about today.

3 “The
University of Wyoming Apologizes to the “Black 14″.” The Journal
of 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 He
was 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 Black
14: Williams v. Eaton A Personal Recollection.” The Black 14. Accessed
October 16, 2017.

8 Barrett, James E. “The Black 14: Williams v. Eaton A
Personal Recollection.” The Black 14. Accessed October 16, 2017.

9 Barrett,
James E. “The Black 14: Williams v. Eaton A Personal Recollection.”
The Black 14. Accessed October 16, 2017.

 

10 Barrett,
James E. “The Black 14: Williams v. Eaton A Personal Recollection.”
The Black 14. Accessed October 16, 2017.

11 Thorburn, Ryan. Black 14: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Wyoming Football. Boulder,
CO: Burning Daylight, 2009.

12 “Popular
Research Topics: Black 14.” University of Wyoming | American Heritage
Center | Research Services | Popular Research Topics. Accessed October 14,
2017.

13 “Popular
Research Topics: Black 14.” University of Wyoming | American Heritage
Center | Research Services | Popular Research Topics. Accessed October 14,
2017.

14 “Popular
Research Topics: Black 14.” University of Wyoming | American Heritage
Center | Research Services | Popular Research Topics. Accessed October 14,
2017.

15 “Popular
Research Topics: Black 14.” University of Wyoming | American Heritage
Center | Research Services | Popular Research Topics. Accessed October 14,
2017.

16 Thorburn, Ryan. Black
14: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Wyoming Football. Boulder, CO: Burning
Daylight, 2009.

17 Thorburn,
Ryan. Black 14: The Rise, Fall, and
Rebirth of Wyoming Football. Boulder, CO: Burning Daylight, 2009.

18 Alcindor,
Yamiche. “Bloody Arrest of Black Student Leads to Investigation.” USA
Today. 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 Wyoming
Apologizes to the “Black 14″.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher
Education, no. 38 (2003): 51.

21 “The University of Wyoming Apologizes to the “Black
14″.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 38 (2003): 51.

 

22 Dubin,
Jared. “Seahawks’ Michael Bennett details harrowing story of racial
profiling in Las Vegas.” Seahawks’ Michael Bennett details harrowing story
of racial profiling in Las Vegas – CBSSports.com. September 06, 2017. Accessed
December 04, 2017.