Celebrating Black History Month

February 4, 2024
As the first weekend of Black History Month (BHM) comes to an end, today we’re celebrating Black sportspeople who’ve broken barriers in sports — from the court to the field to those calling the shots.
Sports NewsGeneral
Celebrating Black History Month
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📓 Segregation and integration

Much like other aspects of life, sports were segregated throughout the U.S. for decades, preventing Black and white athletes from competing with and against each other for much of the early 20th century.

  • The exclusion of Black individuals from professional leagues led to the creation of Black-only or “Negro” teams and leagues. But these leagues often had shorter schedules, less funding, and worse equipment.

Jackie Robinson famously broke pro baseball’s “color barrier” in 1947, ending a six-decade ban on Black players in MLB. Soon after, the desegregation of the U.S. military in 1948 encouraged more pro sports leagues to slowly begin to integrate.

As for football, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode of the (now-called) LA Rams as well as Marion Motley and Bill Willis of the Cleveland Browns were the first Black players to play in the NFL’s modern era in 1946.

  • The NBA officially integrated in 1950 when Earl Lloyd, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, and Chuck Cooper became the league’s first Black players.

While all of these events represented significant milestones in sports, the process of integration wasn’t a simple one. As they began competing with their white peers, Black athletes faced travel barriers, physical attacks, and even death threats.

💪🏾 Black women blazing the trail

Celebrating Black History Month
Source: ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Much like other aspects of life, sports were segregated throughout the U.S. for decades, preventing Black and white athletes from competing with and against each other for much of the early 20th century.

  • The exclusion of Black individuals from professional leagues led to the creation of Black-only or “Negro” teams and leagues. But these leagues often had shorter schedules, less funding, and worse equipment.

Jackie Robinson famously broke pro baseball’s “color barrier” in 1947, ending a six-decade ban on Black players in MLB. Soon after, the desegregation of the U.S. military in 1948 encouraged more pro sports leagues to slowly begin to integrate.

As for football, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode of the (now-called) LA Rams as well as Marion Motley and Bill Willis of the Cleveland Browns were the first Black players to play in the NFL’s modern era in 1946.

  • The NBA officially integrated in 1950 when Earl Lloyd, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, and Chuck Cooper became the league’s first Black players.

While all of these events represented significant milestones in sports, the process of integration wasn’t a simple one. As they began competing with their white peers, Black athletes faced travel barriers, physical attacks, and even death threats.

👏🏾 On the sidelines

Celebrating Black History Month
Source: Mark Brown/Getty Images

Much like other aspects of life, sports were segregated throughout the U.S. for decades, preventing Black and white athletes from competing with and against each other for much of the early 20th century.

  • The exclusion of Black individuals from professional leagues led to the creation of Black-only or “Negro” teams and leagues. But these leagues often had shorter schedules, less funding, and worse equipment.

Jackie Robinson famously broke pro baseball’s “color barrier” in 1947, ending a six-decade ban on Black players in MLB. Soon after, the desegregation of the U.S. military in 1948 encouraged more pro sports leagues to slowly begin to integrate.

As for football, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode of the (now-called) LA Rams as well as Marion Motley and Bill Willis of the Cleveland Browns were the first Black players to play in the NFL’s modern era in 1946.

  • The NBA officially integrated in 1950 when Earl Lloyd, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, and Chuck Cooper became the league’s first Black players.

While all of these events represented significant milestones in sports, the process of integration wasn’t a simple one. As they began competing with their white peers, Black athletes faced travel barriers, physical attacks, and even death threats.

🗣 Black athletes calling for change

Celebrating Black History Month
Source: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Much like other aspects of life, sports were segregated throughout the U.S. for decades, preventing Black and white athletes from competing with and against each other for much of the early 20th century.

  • The exclusion of Black individuals from professional leagues led to the creation of Black-only or “Negro” teams and leagues. But these leagues often had shorter schedules, less funding, and worse equipment.

Jackie Robinson famously broke pro baseball’s “color barrier” in 1947, ending a six-decade ban on Black players in MLB. Soon after, the desegregation of the U.S. military in 1948 encouraged more pro sports leagues to slowly begin to integrate.

As for football, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode of the (now-called) LA Rams as well as Marion Motley and Bill Willis of the Cleveland Browns were the first Black players to play in the NFL’s modern era in 1946.

  • The NBA officially integrated in 1950 when Earl Lloyd, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, and Chuck Cooper became the league’s first Black players.

While all of these events represented significant milestones in sports, the process of integration wasn’t a simple one. As they began competing with their white peers, Black athletes faced travel barriers, physical attacks, and even death threats.