More and more we’re hearing talk of a boycott of the upcoming NFL season if some team doesn’t sign Colin Kaepernick who is being blackballed by the league and its team owners.
In case you forgot what Kap did to incur the wrath of the NFL bosses, he had the nerve to publicly protest police brutality against black people by kneeling when the “Star Spangled Banner” was played before games.
In a new insightful article by Rickey Hampton, the editor, and founder of The African-American Athlete, he points out how black players from the now defunct American Football League (AFL), put their careers on the line when they decided to boycott the 1965 AFL All-Star game in New Orleans.
Hampton details how in 1965 the Crescent City was doing everything it could to bring professional football to town. And of course, the AFL, looking to make inroads into the South, was interested in doing business. At the same time, New Orleans, like much of the South, was pushing back against the recent signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The bill, at least legally, ended segregation and discrimination. In reality, the enforcement of the new law was an entirely different story. It was business as usual in the Big Easy. And the black AFL All-Stars felt the wrath of southern racism the moment they arrived in New Orleans.
The white cab drivers at the New Orleans airport refused to take their fares.
“All these cabs were lined up in front of the airport, and I walked out with my bag and went up to the first cab driver who was white, and he said he was on his break,” said Butch Byrd, a rookie defensive back for the Buffalo Bills. “I said, ‘Ok, no problem.’ I didn’t think anything about it, to be honest. So I went to the second one, then the third one, and then this black cab driver came up to me and said, ‘Are you looking for a cab?’ and I said yes.”
That was just the beginning. The black All-Stars weren’t allowed in the downtown New Orleans restaurants, clubs, and hotels. One player, Ernie Ladd, reportedly had a gun pulled on him by a restaurant owner, who refused to serve him.
On the other hand, unlike the NFL that only had a few black players, the AFL, Hampton reminds, was built on the talent of black players, especially those from the Black Colleges. The black players had power, and they were not afraid to use it.
“We were the last athletes you want to try and intimidate,” said Abner Haynes, a star player for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Haynes and Cookie Gilchrist of the Buffalo Bills led the boycott. They decided they were not going to take part in a game played in a city that would practice such flagrant discrimination and racism policies. And they charged the other 19 black players to do the same.
“We were disrespected as men,” said Haynes, said in the Showtime documentary about the AFL ‘The Other League’. “We were not here because of color; we were here because of talent. Why should we go out there and put our lives on the line for people who don’t appreciate us?”
“It was time to stand up, and be counted. I think that is what we did.”
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