LARAMIE – “More Than Just an Armband”, an exhibit about the dismissal of Black 14 players from the University of Wyoming football team in 1969 and the impact of that historic event, is now on display through December at the American Heritage Center (AHC) at UW. .
The exhibit examines the history of the UW Black 14 football players and the legacy of their October 1969 dismissal from the UW football team. In the fall of 1969, the players were fired from the team by head football coach Lloyd Eaton because they showed up at the coach’s office as a group, wearing street clothes with black armbands the day before a game against Brigham Young University (BYU). The players wanted to talk with the coach about how they could show solidarity with a call from the Black Student Alliance to protest the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ policy of banning black people access to the priesthood (the Church lifted the ban in 1978).
The players’ proposed action was also a way to respond to the BYU football team for its mistreatment of black UW players in the previous year’s game. News of the players’ firing spread across campus and the UW community, leading students, faculty and staff to speak out against Eaton’s decision and show their support for the Black 14 players.
Advertisement – The story continues below…
The exhibit was created by attendees of the Black 14 Social Justice Summer Institute on the UW campus in July, which attracted nine high school students from Wyoming, Colorado and Ohio. Three Black 14 members participated throughout the week, with two more joining via Zoom. The players spoke with students and student leaders about their experiences over 50 years ago.
“For a long time, the narrative surrounding the Black 14 was limited in scope and focused on the protest against the LDS Church,” says Mary Beth Brown, AHC’s Toppan Librarian, Black History Specialist. and academic head of the institute. “This exposure offered Black 14 members not only a chance to correct the narrative, but also put the protests of Black 14 members and the UW community who supported them into context within the larger movement for black freedom.”
Brown says the exhibit is significant because of the historical significance of Black 14’s player history.
“Conversations over primary source documents held at AHC revealed that there was much more to the story than had been reported and that the narrative, which developed over time, became biased,” observes Brown. In particular, it left out important aspects of player perspectives. One of the consistent messages from the summer institute was that, for the Black 14, “the issue was not simply their desire to protest The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Brown says. , “it was more important – more than just an armband.
Professor Paul Flesher, Director of the AHC, adds that the exhibit highlights how the campus community reacted to the dismissal of the players from the team and the impact 53 years later.
“’More than just an armband’ offers a look at the event itself; how UW students, faculty, and employees reacted to it; as well as how this event continues to have an impact more than 50 years later – particularly in how the parties have developed new relationships with each other,” says Flesher. “The University of Wyoming publicly apologized to the Black 14 in 2019, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has worked in recent years with Black 14’s Mind, Body and Soul initiative to distribute food to hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
The exhibit is located in Gallery 1 of the AHC Loggia on the second floor of the Centennial Complex at 2111 E. Willett Drive. The gallery is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and closed for lunch from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. A virtual Black 14 exhibition is planned.
Parking on the Centennial Complex grounds is free, but guests must register at the front desk.