US university apologises - 50 years later - for dropping black students

The University of Wyoming has apologised to 14 black former students who were dropped from the football team for wanting to protest against racist policies.
The University of Wyoming has apologised to 14 black former students who were dropped from the football team for wanting to protest against racist policies.
Image: 123rf/ Taras Tsurka

The University of Wyoming in the US has finally apologised to 14 black former students who were dismissed from the university's football club for wanting to protest a racist policy.

The "Black 14" were dismissed in October 1969 following a meeting with the then head coach, Lloyd Eaton, in which they proposed to wear black armbands during matches to protest against the marginalisation of black men by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church prohibited black men who wanted to be priests, according to reports by CNN

Eaton refused to hear their side and instead dismissed them from the football team and temporarily suspended their scholarships. The protest would have had an impact as the team was set to play against the Brigham Young University, which was affiliated with the church.

After the dismissal, three of the team members transferred to all-black schools.

Although the news gained traction throughout America, the details surrounding it were vague. The public's understanding was that the young men did stage the protest.

"Black 14" member Ted Williams told The Black Voice that although the apology was long overdue, he was glad that their side of the story had come out.

“Our side is coming out. All these years everybody thought we protested and stuff, and we never did,” Williams was quoted as saying in Fox News.

The dismissal not only cost them their full college experience, but it lingered years after and was brought up in job interviews.

During the commemorative week for the "Black 14", the University of Wyoming's athletics director Tom Burman read out a letter of apology.

"Please accept this sincere apology from the University of Wyoming for the unfair way you were treated and for the hardships that treatment created for you. We want to welcome you home as valued members of the institution, and hope you accept our old Wyoming saying, 'Once a Cowboy, always a Cowboy'."

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