After learning about a little-known Black football player who integrated the NFL, a New York fifth grade class started a petition demanding that Kenny Washington be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
According to Change.org, Liza Turner and Heather Rice’s classes at Johnson City Intermediate School were researching for a civil rights project when one student wondered who broke the color barrier for football. The 44 students learned Washington signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1946, integrating the sport after a 12-year ban on Blacks entering the league. Washington became the University of California, Los Angeles’ first All-American in 1939. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1956, but the running back never got inducted into the pro hall of fame.
By contrast, Jackie Robinson – who integrated the MLB in 1946 – was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963, according to the official website.
“We were thinking that it wasn’t fair, how they both did the same thing, but in different sports, and only one of them got the recognition for it,” said one of Turner’s students Kaylin Masyck, to Time Warner Cable News.
The class wants to change that. Students urged others to sign the petition so Washington can be recognized for his football contributions. What originally began with a 1,000-signature goal, according to TWCN, turned into an increased goal of 10,000 by the end of the month. The website currently has 6,579 supporters.
“I think it’s a sense of fairness that they’re learning about first hand, and knowing that they can do something — that even as kids they have the power to change things — is really what I hope they’re getting out of this, and I think they are,” Turner told TWCN.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, enshrinees are selected by a 46-person committee that meets annually around the time of the Super Bowl to elect new members. Current rules state that between four and eight new members are selected yearly. All candidates must have 80 percent of approval at the committee before election. A wide age range on the committee ensures young and old players are recognized.