In 1969, black football players stood against racism in one of the whitest states in the US
In 1969, 14 African-American players on the University of Wyoming’s nationally ranked American football team planned a protest against the racist policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before their game against Brigham Young University, which is owned and operated by the church. Until 1978, the church blocked African Americans from the priesthood, and only in 2013 officially disavowed their founder Joseph Smith’s assertion that black people are cursed by God. Wearing black wristbands in solidarity, the team approached their white coach Lloyd Eaton to ask permission to participate in an on-field protest during the game. Eaton proceeded to kick the players off the team, arguing that the protest broke his rules against athletes participating in student demonstrations and creating factions within the team.
The US filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe’s documentary Black 14 uses archival footage to revisit the incident, recounting how the players put their education and potential professional football careers at risk, and caused an uproar in the predominantly white state by standing against racism. Monroe’s film draws clear parallels to the NFL national anthem protests of today, examining how US frameworks of free speech bend toward white institutions and away from black dissent, and challenging the notion that sports can be apolitical.
Director: Darius Clark Monroe
Producer: Yvonne M Shirley