Black 14, Mormon Church team up

CASPER – After decades of pain, there was an apology. 

And some closure. 

Now, the surviving members of the Black 14, the group of University of Wyoming football players booted off the team in 1969, are giving back with an assist from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

At 11 a.m. Nov. 17, approximately 40,000 pounds of food was delivered in Laramie to be shared by the Cathedral Home for Children and the UW Food Share Pantry. 

The donation arrived 52 years after the 14 Black players were kicked out of the program by head coach Lloyd Eaton after asking to wear black armbands in UW’s game against BYU to protest racist policies in the Mormon Church. 

John Griffin, a member of the Black 14 who was unable to attend last year’s food delivery due to the pandemic, planned to be on hand to speak to the UW students and other volunteers.

“We decided that we need to give back,” Griffin said. “We need to turn a tragedy into philanthropy. That’s what we need to do and that’s what we’ve done.” 

Last year, trucks delivered food donated by the Mormon Church to nine different cities with ties to the Black 14. 

The Black 14 Philanthropy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, has already agreed to extend its partnership with Latter-day Saints Charities for another three years to send trucks filled with food on monthly donation missions.

Griffin met one of the trucks on Nov. 16 in Denver, where he lives, for its arrival at Catholic Charities. 

Eight members of the Black 14 were able to make it to campus on Sept. 13, 2019, when UW athletics director Tom Burman read them an official apology letter from the university before they were honored during the football game the next day wearing their new letterman’s jackets.

Now Cowboys once again, it was time to pay it forward. 

“I think you could say there’s closure because we received a letter of apology and it was sincere,” Griffin said. “And we’ve gotten more recognition than we ever have. People appreciate what we’re doing now. Everything has changed. 

“There will always be the detractors, but the folks I deal with are so appreciate of what we’re doing. That’s all I care about.” 

The Black 14 Social Justice Summer Institute for African-American students from Colorado and Wyoming is expected to be launched this year after being delayed due to the COVID-19 health crisis. The program will be an entry point for students to learn about social justice, resistance to social injustice, and oppression. 

Since 2019, the university has also been seeking contributions to an endowment honoring the Black 14 by creating a pipeline program for Black students to attend the university. 

“We’ve got a lot of stuff going on, man,” Griffin said. “I’m pleasantly surprised that things have changed the way they’ve changed. It’s such a great thing to see.”