LARAMIE, Wyo. — The University of Wyoming is honoring the Black 14 after they were cut from the school’s football team for wanting to protest during the civil rights movement.
Nearly 50 years after 14 Black players were dismissed from Wyoming’s football team for wanting to protest amid the civil rights movement in America, the school is paying public tribute to them as part of a weeklong commemoration of the incident. A plaque telling the story of the Black 14 will be unveiled near Gate 4 at War Memorial Stadium at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13.
Officials say the commemoration includes football halftime recognition and a free public panel discussion.
The Casper Star-Tribune reported that on Oct. 17, 1969, 14 Black players approached then-Wyoming coach Lloyd Eaton in the team’s fieldhouse with the intent of asking for permission to wear Black armbands during the Cowboys’ game against BYU the next day. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which still owns and operates BYU, had a now-defunct policy that prevented African-Americans from pursuing the priesthood while some members of the Black 14 also wanted to protest the racial slurs and cheap shots they said they endured during Wyoming’s game at BYU the previous season.
But the players said Eaton never allowed them to ask the question. Eaton, who died in 2007 at the age of 88, instead dismissed them from a team that was 4-0 at the time, had won three straight Western Athletic Conference championships and rose as high as No. 12 in the national rankings a year after playing in the Sugar Bowl.
Wyoming beat BYU 40-7 but lost four of its last five games that season, starting the program into a tailspin. The Cowboys’ 1-9 season in 1970 was Eaton’s last as head coach, and Wyoming had just one winning season over the next decade.
Most of the Black 14 never played football again.
Athletic officials said nine of the living 11 members are expected back for the scheduled tribute. It could be the largest known contingent of the Black 14 on campus since they were dismissed.
“This story has been told a lot, but I just felt in visiting with the members of the Black 14 over the last half-dozen years — I’ve gotten to know some of them fairly well — we just needed to extend the olive branch,” Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman said. “It’s been a long time.” — (AP)