Civil Rights History in Wyoming: The UW ‘Black 14′
In 1969, the Wyoming Cowboys football team was riding high. The Pokes were coming off three consecutive conference championships, undefeated, and ranked 12th in the nation. Then, on October 17th, the fate of the Pokes football program changed forever.
The day before a game against Brigham Young University, 14 African-American players informed coach Lloyd Eaton about their plan to wear black armbands to protest racism at BYU and within the Mormon church. Eaton dismissed all 14 players for the rest of the season.
In the weeks following the incident, which became known as the "Black 14" controversy, opposing teams wore armbands in support of the suspended players and some schools faced public pressure to drop Wyoming from the schedule.
After a 6-0 start, Wyoming lost their final four games of the season. The following year, the Cowboys finished 1-9 and Eaton resigned. Over the next decade, Wyoming had one winning season.
To mark the 50th anniversary in September 2019, the University of Wyoming honored the Black 14 members during a week-long event. The week included discussions with the former players, the unveiling of a plaque in their honor at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, and a ceremony at half-time during the Idaho vs. Wyoming game.
“We are thrilled to welcome the members back to campus to honor them during this 50th commemoration,” UW Director of Athletics Tom Burman said in a statement at the time. “We believe this event serves multiple purposes: education, healing, and learning how to move forward effectively as we support our current students and celebrate our alumni community.”