The “Black 14” were to be honored by BYU before its football game against Wyoming on Saturday. File Photo by Jaren S. Wilkey/BYU
Sept. 24 (UPI) — Brigham Young University was set Saturday to honor members of the “Black 14,” a group of college football players dismissed from the Wyoming team in 1969 after protesting Latter-day Saints church policies.
The two players, John Griffin and Mel Hamilton, were scheduled to light the huge “Y” on the mountain towering above Cougar Stadium when No. 19 BYU hosts in Wyoming in Provo, Utah.
Lighting the “Y” before a game is reserved for dignitaries the school wants to honor.
In 1969, Wyoming coach Lloyd Eaton dismissed Griffin, Hamilton and 12 other players from the team the day before their game against BYU. The players had asked Eaton if they could wear black arm bands to protest the Mormon church’s policy of restricting Blacks from entering temples and receiving the priesthood.
Eaton instead kicked them off the team and told the players they should go on “Negro welfare,” the Desert News reported.
The restrictions were lifted in 1978.
“It took me 10 years to get over the anger,” Griffin told the newspaper in 2020. “I finally realized it wasn’t healthy for me to harbor that anger any longer. It was a tragedy, but all I could do is get on with my life and do the best I could and not let that hamper me. That was my focus from the late ’70s till now.”
The tribute is one of the first initiatives of BYU’s new Office of Belonging, said BYU vice president Carl Hernandez.
“We will have tens of thousands of our community who will be introduced to the Office of Belonging and the Black 14 on Saturday night,” he said.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black 14 and the Church say they have worked together to distribute 800,000 pounds of food to the hungry.
“It is remarkable,” Griffin said. “This is an American story. Nobody could have written this 50 years ago, 10 years ago, two years ago. They can now. And it’s a heartwarming story.”