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The Wyoming Black Fourteen (1969)

The Wyoming Black Fourteen were African American members of the 1969 University of Wyoming (UW) football team who protested playing a game with Brigham Young University (BYU) because of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s ban on black males holding the priesthood in the church and other racial restrictions. The priesthood ban applied exclusively to men of African descent.  

The 14 players, Jerry Berry, Tony Gibson, John Griffin, Lionel Grimes, Mel Hamilton, Ron Hill, Willie Hysaw, Jim Isaac, Earl Lee, Don Meadows, Tony McGee, Ivie Moore, Joe Williams, and Ted Williams, were part of a successful Wyoming football team. Under Head Coach Lloyd Eaton, the Wyoming Cowboys had won three consecutive Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championships and in 1969 it was considered the best football team to ever play for the University.  

The protest began on October 15, 1969 when Willie Black, a 32-year-old math graduate student and head of Wyoming’s Black Student Alliance, upon learning of the LDS ban on black male priests, brought a letter titled “We Must Protest,” to University administrators. The letter described the race issues of the Mormon church, including the priesthood restriction and other prohibitions such as barring all women and men of African ancestry from participation in temple rituals.  Black’s letter called for all Wyoming football players and students to protest LDS church policies during the scheduled game with BYU, three days later on October 18.  

Two days before the game, the 14 black players walked to the athletic complex to discuss options for how they might protest. They eventually decided to wear black armbands but nonetheless compete in the game. On October 17, the day before the game, Coach Eaton upon hearing about their decision, ordered the players to the bleachers where he reprimanded them, and then released them from the team, revoking their athletic scholarships. The University announced that the Board of Trustees supported Coach Eaton’s decision and said “the players will

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