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Reply #198: Wyoming's "Black 14" and the mormon church's policies on race [View All]

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fishwax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-07-10 09:34 PM
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198. Wyoming's "Black 14" and the mormon church's policies on race
The 2009 football season marked the 40th anniversary of the "Black 14" -- fourteen African American football players at the University of Wyoming who were dismissed from the team for talking about wearing black armbands in a game against Brigham Young University. The players wanted to protest racist policies of the LDS church, including not allowing African Americans to hold the priesthood. When they first raised the possibility to coach Lloyd Eaton, they were told that there was a team rule against participating in protests. A few days later, wearing black armbands, they visited Eaton again to ask him to reconsider, and were immediately kicked off the team. So basically they were kicked off the team not for protesting, but for *asking* if they could protest.

There was a great deal of national media attention, and the players (with the ACLU) filed a lawsuit. And there was significant fallout for both schools.

Wyoming rallied to beat BYU, but without the 14 (seven of whom were starters and all but one of whom was an underclassmen), the Cowboys lost the next four and then went 1-9 the next year. Coach Eaton was "reassigned" within the athletic department, and his successors (surprise surprise) had difficulty recruiting African American talent to Laramie for several years. The Cowboys had won three straight WAC championships, finished the previous season ranked in the top 10, and were ranked #16 the week before the BYU game. But they would only have one winning season in the 1970s, and the program never returned to its former prominence.

BYU signed their first black scholarship player the next year, and the attention and pressure from such incidents as the Black 14 and other athletic protests (Bob Beamon, for instance, lost his track scholarship at UTEP for refusing to compete against BYU) almost certainly pushed the church towards reversing their stance on refusing the priesthood in 1978.

According to one of the articles below, 10 of the 14 wound up finishing their degrees, either at Wyoming or elsewhere. A few played in the NFL. One became a high school principal in Wyoming. The 40th anniversary, as I said, was this past season, and there was a symposium honoring the players at the University of Wyoming. There were also retrospective stories in various newspapers. Here are a few articles from the web, documenting the event and the aftermath.

The first article appears to be a scholarly article, though I can't tell if it was ever published in the journal of Wyoming History: http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/robertshistory/fired_by_consc...

The second article is from the Denver Post, and focuses on the players: http://www.denverpost.com/sports/ci_13739558

The third is from the Salt Lake City Tribune, and has some interesting info, but it's also pretty revolting the way that the article treats the BYU players as victims who had to endure such horrendous religious bigotry :eyes:. I found the comments of the then-head coach of BYU to be particularly repugnant: http://www.sltrib.com/ci_13728556?source=most_viewed
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