Editorial:

UW apology to Black 14 overdue, but needed

Posted 9/17/19

A long overdue apology took place during a special ceremony at War Memorial Stadium Friday evening, as the University of Wyoming welcomed back the surviving members of the Black 14.

Which begs the …

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Editorial:

UW apology to Black 14 overdue, but needed

Posted

A long overdue apology took place during a special ceremony at War Memorial Stadium Friday evening, as the University of Wyoming welcomed back the surviving members of the Black 14.

Which begs the question: What took so long?

October marks the 50th anniversary of the dismissal of 14 black football players from the Cowboys’ 1969 roster, the result of the players’ desire to wear black armbands during a game against BYU. The armbands were meant as a protest against racial injustice, as well as BYU’s policies against blacks in the priesthood; claims were also made that BYU players had used racial slurs during a game the previous season. However, when the 14 met with UW head coach Lloyd Eaton to plead their case, Eaton dismissed them from the team and revoked their scholarships.

The incident made headlines across the nation, and in the wake of the unrest that was indicative of the times, divided it as well. In what in hindsight may seem like an unpopular move, the university backed its coach; so, it seems, did much of the state.

In the almost five decades since that fateful day in coach Eaton’s office, the story of the Black 14 continues to resonate; articles and books have been written about the incident over the years, and documentaries have been made. A CBS Sports documentary crew did a piece on the Black 14 several years ago, and spent a day in Powell interviewing local businessman Dave Blevins, who was the sports editor of UW’s student newspaper during the controversy.

And while we’d all like to believe that what happened to the Black 14 in 1969 wouldn’t happen in this age of “wokeness,” we may not be as close to bridging that divide as we’d like to think. But the recent actions by the administration at UW regarding the Black 14 is as good a place to start as any.

At a dinner honoring the surviving 11 members of the Black 14, UW Athletics Director Tom Burman read a letter from himself and former UW President Laurie Nichols, officially apologizing for the treatment of the men.

“This story has been told a lot, but I just felt in visiting with the members of the Black 14 over the last half-dozen years — I’ve gotten to know some of them fairly well — we just needed to extend the olive branch,” Burman told the Casper Star-Tribune. “It’s been a long time.”

A long time indeed. But kudos to UW administration for recognizing it was within their power to bring a measure of peace and closure to those who were affected the most.

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