In 1964, the federal government passed the Civil Rights Act, which makes certain forms of discrimination illegal in the United States. Only five years later, less than 16 months after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., members of the University of Wyoming’s football team attempted to draw attention to inequities and pay for them. price.
Its difficult situation could have become a footnote of the civil rights movement if there had not been a series of protests in football nearly 50 years later. Protests over the past 10 years have revealed instances of racism and reminded of the problems the Wyoming Black 14 faced half a century ago.
Fourteen black members of the Wyoming football team in 1969 drew attention to the refusal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to allow blacks to become priests. The group’s attempt to protest with black bracelets during the BYU match resulted in the expulsion of all the people involved from the team and careful scrutiny of the rest of the state. Wyoming fans applauded the decision of coach Lloyd Eaton at that time.
The university and many of its fans changed their minds in light of the 50th anniversary: the university invited players to come back and apologized, and the crowd at War Memorial Stadium greeted the group with a big ovation. But the opposition to the football protests remains.
There is no better-known example of this than Colin Kaepernick. In an effort to protest deadly incidents of police brutality against unarmed people of color, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback sat down and knelt while the national anthem played before the Games. This led to an immediate review.
Chris Murray, of Nevada Sports Net, covered Kaepernick, Nevada, while the controversial future personality was an ambitious athlete open to the media. Murray, who was previously in the Revo Gazette-Journal, described Kaepernick as an intelligent person on and off the field and whose subsequent positions could have been influenced by living in a completely black fraternity in Reno. Kaepernick did not start the protest until after he left Nevada, but his actions left his fans in Reno open for debate.
“I would not say that the community, in general, hates it, but I would say it’s about 50-50,” said Murray at the Star-Tribune. “It’s crazy that people hate the symbol of kneeling in front of the anthem, civil rights are not a political problem, it’s a human problem, but it’s tricky and I probably knew that entered this minefield.
After his demonstration, Kaepernick has not played football since the 2016 season, which attributes a lot to the violent reaction.
Nevada has not eliminated any of its signals including Kaepernick. Some local businesses have removed their image and some fans have posted videos showing that they burn their t-shirts on social networks. For a quarter who helped put Nevada on the map, went to church and participated in community activities, his affiliation with the Wolf Pack Athletics became more volatile than anyone would have expected.
“They absolutely loved him,” said Murray. “I did not think he could do anything to make it not the best thing out of Reno.”
Kaepernick, who led the pack of wolves to a 3rd State nuisance in Boise and drew 30,000 loyal Nevada fans to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2010, is eligible for the school’s Hall of Fame next season. Murray said he would be curious to see the reaction of the crowd to this. He also said he did not think the university was rushing to build a statue of his most famous quarterback.
The same year that Kaepernick began his protest, Nebraska’s eminent linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey was one of three Cornhuskers to kneel in the national anthem before a game against Northwestern. When Rose-Ivey returned to practice on Monday, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Regents of Nebraska Board Member Hal Daub punished him. Rose-Ivey has also received death threats.
“This is a problem of behavior and not a problem of freedom of expression,” said Daub in a statement released the following week.
Mike Riley, Nebraska’s head coach at the time, said he supported Rose-Ivey and his teammates.
In August 2016, a radio announcer asked Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl if the school or team had a policy regarding Cowboys players joining the rally. Bohl spoke of his own admiration for the United States and the diversity of his Cowboys team.
“In our football team, we have young men from Wyoming and a Baltimore African-American and an African-American (star rider Brian Hill) from St. Louis,” said Bohl. “And we have guys from Compton. And I go to all these places. To have a simplistic answer, but I think it’s important for us to have a unified position, not a position, but a feeling for our country. ”
He also said that the problem would not arise because most university teams are not on the field during the anthem.
The problem reached a new level of national attention in September 2017 when President Donald Trump criticized the players at a rally.
“Would not you like one of those NFL owners, when someone does not respect our flag, to say,” Bring that son of a bitch out of the field now. Outside! He is fired. He is fired! “He said.
In May 2018, the NFL approved a new rule that requires players to stop during the national anthem or stay in the locker room.
“I think it’s a lightning rod problem on both sides,” Murray said. “It was politicized by our president who decided to make it our problem and create a gap between the two sides of the room.”
While Kaepernick was protesting a national problem, other football players used his platform to tackle problems closer to home.
In 2015, a graduate student from the University of Missouri went on a hunger strike to protest racist incidents on campus, including a swastika drawn in the stool on the one-bedroom wall, and people shouted the word N to the leader of the party. body of students at the time of their passage, which he wrote in a viral message on Facebook. The graduate student notably called for the resignation of the president of the system, Tim Wolfe.
Then, several black Missouri football team players said they would not participate in football before the end of the hunger strike. Wolfe resigned before they lost a game.
It may have been the biggest showcase of difference 50 years ago. The Wyoming players wanted to order bracelets and were fired from the team by their head coach, who did not approve. Missouri players demanded the resignation of a president. Head coach Gary Pinkel sympathized with his players and his request was satisfied.
Wyoming players attended a protest event in 2016 in eastern Michigan when students protested that someone had painted with “KKK” spray paint on the side of a building campus. Brandon Folsom, then a freelance journalist for the Detroit Free Press, recalled seeing documents given to students telling them not to attack the field, in accordance with the student’s code of conduct.
“I know there is a warm atmosphere among the students,” Folsom told the Star-Tribune. “He was hot and they took him seriously.”
The students stormed the field towards the administration after the East Michigan victory over Wyoming. There were no other acts of protest.
Eastern Michigan is also a suburban campus where most students live off-campus. According to Folsom, if the campus atmosphere had been more typical, it could have evolved differently. And while the atmosphere around campus was reduced after these events, students were sensitive and protective of their own campus.
“I think the kids saw what was happening across the country and did not want it to happen on their campus,” Folsom said.
Social networks have helped students in eastern Michigan spread graffiti and promote recent activism in general. Wyoming’s Black 14 did not have a social network at that time to share his version of the story.
“I think social networks are a key element,” Folsom said. “This type of bridge has brought the suburban university closer to this group of humans who interact and analyze certain social problems.”
Of course, social networks can also hurt. During protests in Missouri, a student was arrested for uttering terrorist threats on the Yik Yak social media platform. A threat, published anonymously, announced that it would “shoot all blacks I see”.
These recent acts of protest, ranging from kneeling to boycotting to the aggression of a football field, have their place in the 150-year history of university football. They have occurred more frequently over the past decade, partly because of social media, but the issues surrounding it are as controversial as they were at the beginning of college football.
“Most Americans do not want to hear that minorities have different problems, face police brutality and do not face the same experiences,” said Murray. “Most people in power, not only in the United States, but in the NFL they are white elders, and they live a different life from the young and black men who make up the majority of the list of NFL. ”
Murray said he thought Kaepernick had chosen the event that would attract the most interest from people in the hope of getting attention and starting a conversation.
Time will tell if your event will age the same as Black 14.