The Black 14 is a story of fourteen black student-athletes from the 1969 University of Wyoming (UW) football team who were unfairly kicked off the team for requesting to participate in a peaceful protest planned by the Black Students' Alliance (BSA) during an upcoming game versus Brigham Young University (BYU).
Three years prior to the 1969 football game between UW and BYU, the Cowboys won 31 of 36 games, had played in the Sun Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, and were ranked #12 in the UPI Board of Coaches Poll.
Leading up to the BYU game (October 18, 1969), seven of the 14 African-American players were starters. John Griffin was the leading receiver and his cohort Ron Hill led in kickoff returns and scored Wyoming’s first touchdown in college football’s centennial year. Joe Williams, Tony Gibson, and Ted Williams were the top four rushers. Tony McGee tackled the Air Force quarterback for a loss seven times in UW's come-from-behind win at AFA.
Early that week, the BSA announced plans to protest UW's participation in the game against BYU.
This protest was in response to a tenet held by the church that owns BYU, stating that African-Americans could not ascend to the priesthood. The BSA release stated that using university facilities and student monies to host BYU sanctioned that tenet. Upon approaching coach Lloyd Eaton to discuss how they might show solidarity with the BSA, wearing black armbands as a symbol of protest, the 14 Black players were kicked off the team. He based this punishment on his
team rules: 1) scholarship players could not participate in demonstrations, and 2) they could not form factions within the team.
Realizing these rules could be unconstitutional, UW withdrew the rules the following week, but players were not reinstated.
Their story was covered nationally, including an article in Sports Illustrated.
The Denver Post carried an editorial asking whether football was more important in Wyoming than human rights.
The Black 14 set the foundation for political activism & sports.
At the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in solidarity with oppressed Blacks.
48 years later, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem protesting police brutality & racism.
The Black 14 has been featured for their courage and call to action displays against discrimination by CBS Sports, CNN, ESPN, PBS, Sports Center, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, the Washington Post, and many more. In 2017, Spike Lee executive produced a Black 14 Documentary.
Today, The Black 14 Philanthropy Non-profit 501(c)(3) has the following programs:
The Black 14 Mind Body Soul Initiative
The Balck 14 Scholarship Fund
The Black 14 Student-Athlete Leadership Playbook