When the NFL became successful African Americans were not allowed to participate, but that was soon to change as they now dominate the football league. As the NFL grew more popular in the United States, the National Football League decided it would be better to brand and promote the sport by appealing to the racial views of the time. The marketers of the NFL made it segregated, but quickly had to face the fact that African American players were just as good as the other players and deserved to compete against them.
One by one, African American players tore down the color barrier and now dominante the National Football league. While it was very difficult for black athletes to make it into the NFL, they overcame the challenges and are now huge influencers in the league.Initially, the NFL was not segregated. In the early 1920’s the National Football League was not segregated and African Americans and White players played together. They participated in Club Sport Football. African-Americans did play professional football in its earliest days when it was still a club sport and not a brand being marketed to the public. But, by 1933, “football was becoming big business and blacks were not welcomed” (Patmus). From the early 1920’s up until 1933, seventeen African Americans had played in the league.
But, as the National Football League grew more popular, blacks were not allowed to participate. The segregation in the league began in 1934 and lasted twelve years to 1946. For over a decade there were no black players in the NFL. However, there “wasn’t an official rule against them, but there was an unwritten understanding among the teams.
The teams would not allow African Americans into the league. No NFL teams wanted to allow African Americans on their teams” (Brown) . This was because no team really wanted to be the first team to do so, and so the excuses as to why the African American players couldn’t play began.One reason was because team owners said that African Americans weren’t good enough .Some owners and coaches claimed that African Americans were not good enough for the National Football League compared to the prominent caucasian players.
But, that reason was difficult to believe considering that nine African American college football players were named all-American stars during the segregated years. NFL owners and coaches tried to discredit the African American players in order to justify their decision. These excuses for the segregation in the league were all in attempt to successfully market the league to the public while appealing to their racial views.
.Another reason for the segregation in the National Football League was the Great Depression. The Great Depression severely widened the racial split between whites and blacks. The Great Depression caused unrest throughout the nation and “there was a feeling that blacks were taking away the jobs of whites … so they didn’t want that on the football field” (Lee) .The Great Depression was a cause of the segregation of the NFL as it once again fed into the social views of the time that the African Americans were taking away jobs from white players.After the segregation ended, the big business NFL welcomed their first African American athlete to their successful new brand.
Kenny Washington was the first African American Player to be drafted. In 1946, Kenny Washington from University of California, Los Angeles. was drafted to play in the NFL, and was then followed by his former teammate Woody Strode. The Rams had drafted Kenny Washington and Woody Strode.
two African American players in 1946. The LA Rams were the first team in the NFL to draft black players. Although Kenny Washington was the first African American player in the NFL, it wasn’t easy for him to enter the league after the segregation ended.Despite Kenny Washington’s outstanding college football career, no NFL team drafted him.
For the following football seasons, “Washington played in the smaller Pacific Coast Football League, where he earned all-league honors every year “(Brown) .Kenny Washington had an incredible college career with outstanding performance statistics but no NFL team drafted him because of his skin color. The NFL held to their racist views and did not recognize Kenny Washington as apart of their brand long after they ended their segregation terms. Kenny Washington had such a outstanding career in the National Football league that he is paralleled to Jackie Robinson of Major League Baseball. Jackie Robinson was a famous baseball player and was also on of the first prominent African American figures in sports.On March 21, 1946, Kenny Washington, suited up for the Los Angeles Rams, ending the National Football League’s ban that kept black athletes from playing in the league for the past 13 years.