BYU to honor ‘Black 14’ football players kicked off Wyoming’s 1969 team

BYU is straight confronting its previous historical past on race this weekend by honoring two members of the Black 14, the players kicked off the 1969 Wyoming football team as a result of they thought-about sporting black armbands throughout a sport with BYU to protest a previous Latter-day Saint coverage on race and priesthood.

John Griffin and Mel Hamilton will ceremonially mild the large Y on the mountain towering above Cougar Stadium on Saturday night time earlier than No. 19 BYU hosts Wyoming in entrance of a nationwide ESPN viewers in Provo, Utah.

Lighting the Y earlier than a football sport — the most important gathering of the BYU neighborhood — is reserved for dignitaries the college desires to honor in a really public method. The pregame ceremony is performed on the sphere in entrance of 60,000 followers.

The tribute is without doubt one of the first initiatives of BYU’s new Office of Belonging, stated Carl Hernandez, the college’s new vp for belonging. The Office of Belonging and the brand new vp place had been two of 26 suggestions to scale back prejudice made by a committee that performed a serious campus research on variety, fairness and belonging.

“We may have tens of 1000’s of our neighborhood who might be launched to the Office of Belonging and the Black 14 on Saturday night time,” Hernandez stated.

Late Wyoming coach Lloyd Eaton kicked Griffin, Hamilton and the remainder of the players who later turned referred to as the Black 14 off the team the day earlier than their 1969 sport with BYU in Laramie, Wyoming, once they went to his workplace to ask if he thought they need to put on black arm bands to protest a coverage of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that restricted Blacks from getting into temples and receiving the priesthood.

That restriction was lifted by a 1978 revelation introduced by church leaders.

Eaton dismissed the players earlier than listening to their proposal. The players had been speechless. When they lastly tried to communicate, he repeatedly silenced them by yelling at them to shut up, they stated. Then he informed them they need to go on “Negro welfare.”

In the phrases of one of many players, the Black 14 had been blackballed. Many Wyoming followers selected the coach over the players, sporting gold armbands with Eaton written on them. The group was ostracized.

“It took me 10 years to recover from the anger,” Griffin informed the Deseret News in 2020. “I lastly realized it wasn’t wholesome for me to harbor that anger any longer. It was a tragedy, however all I may do is get on with my life and do the perfect I may and never let that hamper me. That was my focus from the late ’70s till now.”

Griffin has known as the painful occasions of 1969 “historical historical past” that deserved reconciliation within the current. Over the previous two years, the Black 14 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have demonstrated good will by working collectively to distribute 800,000 kilos of meals to the hungry.

“It is outstanding,” Griffin stated in 2020, when the collaboration started. “This is an American story. Nobody may have written this 50 years in the past, 10 years in the past, two years in the past. They can now. And it is a heartwarming story. It’s not spin. It’s actual. It’s within the hearts of all of us. If I handed away tomorrow, I’ve lived a full life. I’ve been part of one thing that is a lot greater than me.”

Hamilton was a part of the earliest moments of the reconciliation. Before a BYU-Wyoming sport in 2005, he was invited by a Laramie church chief to communicate on the similar Latter-day Saint campus constructing that he had picketed in 1969. The Latter-day Saint institute college students made black armbands for the sport.

Connections constructed then led to the mixed effort to relieve starvation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Hamilton known as Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, a former BYU and NFL quarterback and present General Authority Seventy for the church, to ask for assist. Truckloads of meals quickly started to roll to the hometowns of members of the Black 14 in eight states.

“The Black 14 at all times wished to make one thing helpful out of the incident in 1969,” Hamilton informed the Deseret News in 2020. “We did not need to tackle a bitter and unfavorable connotation. We wished our legacy to be greater than a confrontation. We wished to do one thing to enhance the look of our legacy by serving to different folks.”

BYU President Kevin Worthen informed the Deseret News this week that the Black 14 has created a constructive “from what had been tough instances for them and for us ….”

“It’s fairly highly effective to say, we are able to get quite a bit accomplished for our communities to assist them but in addition assist heal the injuries which have been felt up to now as we do service immediately,” Worthen stated. “That’s a mannequin of claiming, let’s band collectively and work on one thing. Now that, in my thoughts, is without doubt one of the extra highly effective methods of coping with the previous, by making the current and future higher, coming collectively to share these widespread targets that we are able to have after which I feel you discover increasingly more commonalities as you try this.”

BYU’s Office of Belonging is designed round Latter-day Saint leaders’ messages in regards to the brotherhood and sisterhood of all folks as kids of a Heavenly Father.

Worthen stated the Black 14 have personified that message.

“It’s a very good instance of when folks, working in a spirit of recognizing the inherent price of different people and our capability to do good, begin specializing in that as opposed to another method of coping with previous cases,” he stated.

Two weeks after Eaton dismissed the Black 14, some San Jose State players wore black armbands in a sport with BYU. The following yr, Ron Knight, a junior faculty defensive again, broke the BYU football team’s shade barrier. The revelation on the priesthood adopted in 1978.

The University of Wyoming formally apologized to the Black 14 in 2019. Hamilton’s son Malik turned a Latter-day Saint years in the past.

“Never did I hate the folks of the Latter-day Saint faith,” Hamilton has stated. “It was a mission of mine to … communicate out wherever I went to make clear that we do not hate folks. We simply wished that one coverage modified. And thank God, there was a revelation that modified it.”

Hamilton and Griffin are scheduled to take part in a question-and-answer session after a brand new quick movie documentary known as “The Black 14: Healing Hearts and Feeding Souls” premieres Friday at 7 pm within the Wilkinson Student Center’s Varsity Theater. The movie was created by BYU journalism college students.

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