This Little Known Black History Fact topic was submitted by John Plummer, our dedicated listener of the Tom Joyner Morning Show.
In October 1969, 14 black football players were dismissed from the University of Wyoming team for protesting the Mormon religion’s standing on ordaining Black priests. The young players were set to play against Brigham Young University, (which was a Mormon school), but were instead called into the office of Coach Lloyd Eaton and kicked off the team.
It was the late 1960’s and the policy of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-day Saints' was to exclude black men from being hired into priesthood. This was also during the Civil Rights Movement. The players wore black wristbands in protest, against their coaches’ wishes. Some of the players suggested the coach made racist remarks about life after University of Wyoming football, saying they would return to living on food stamps and welfare.
The case would go to the U.S. District Court and was dismissed.
Before the incident, the team was at a record of 4-0 with a promising chance of the upcoming Sugar Bowl. With 14 players eliminated from the team’s roster, their record suffered, and the season went to 2-4. The Cowboys wouldn’t have a chance at the Sugar Bowl again until 1987.
Most of the Black 14 players were never re-admitted to the Cowboy’s team. Their expulsion cost several hopes of professional football. Two of the players, Joe Williams and Tony McGee, made it to the NFL.
The year following the Black 14 incident, Brigham Young University admitted one African American player to their team. It wasn’t until 1987 that the Mormon church changed their policy of ordaining black priests into the religion.
Author Ryan Thorburn told the story of the 1969 incident in his book, “Black 14: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Wyoming Football.”