Fourteen black football players who were kicked off the University of Wyoming’s football team in 1969 just received an apology from the school on Friday, Sept. 13.
Before they were kicked off, the men wanted to join a student protest that took place when Wyoming played Brigham Young University, a school that’s owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At that time, the church’s rules stated that black people weren’t allowed to become priests.
At one point, the 14 players asked if they could be in solidarity with the protesters by wearing black armbands during the game, and just for asking their coach Lloyd Eaton kicked them all off the team.
The decision led to campus protests, and it made national news. Three of the students returned to play for the school in 1970 and three others decided to attend historically black colleges. Meanwhile, two of the men landed in the NFL.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the incident, an entire week was dedicated to the players, who are known as the “Black 14.” And it ended with a dinner on September 13 where an official apology letter was read from athletics director Tom Burman.
Eight of the men were present for the week-long dedication, and Burman said all of the players had their college experience stolen.
“To have your collegiate careers derailed as both students and athletes is a tragedy,” Burman read from the letter.
“Please accept this sincere apology from the University of Wyoming for the unfair way you were treated and for the hardships that treatment created for you. We want to welcome you home as valued members of this institution, and hope you accept our old Wyoming saying, ‘Once a Cowboy, always a Cowboy,” he added.
The men were also honored during halftime on Saturday in a game between Wyoming and the University of Idaho, where they received a plaque.
“That’s all I ever wanted was an apology. That’s it,” said Tony Gibson, one of the Black 14.
Another one of the ousted players, Lionel Grimes, called the apology “mind-boggling.” “I never thought I’d see that happen at the University of Wyoming,” he said.
The names of The Black 14 are Tony Gibson, Jerry Berry, Ron Hill, John Griffin, Lionel Grimes, Mel Hamilton, Willie Hysaw, Jim Isaac, Earl Lee, Don Meadows, Tony McGee, Ivie Moore, Joe Williams, and Ted William.