November 29, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Thread: Vanessa Williams Week

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NFL Open Thread: The American Football League and Black Players

Perhaps the greatest social legacy of the now defunct American Football League was the domino effect of its policy of being more liberal than the entrenched NFL in offering opportunity for black players. While the NFL was still emerging from thirty years of segregation influenced by Washington Redskins’ owner George Preston Marshall, the AFL actively recruited from small and predominantly black colleges. The AFL’s color-blindness led not only to the explosion of black talent on the field, but to the eventual entry of blacks into scouting, coordinating, and ultimately head coaching positions, long after the league ceased to exist.

Many observers will attribute the subsequent lockout of black players in the NFL after earlier success in the 1920s, to the entry of George Preston Marshall into the league in 1932. Marshall openly refused to have black athletes on his Boston Braves/Washington Redskins team, and reportedly pressured the rest of the league to follow suit. Marshall, however, was likely not the only reason: the Great Depression had stoked an increase in racism and self-inflicted segregation across the country, and internal politics likely had as much of an effect as external pressure. [Continue Reading…]

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