The Wyoming ‘Black 14′ Incident This Week In 1969 [Interview]
This week in 1969, four games into that Wyoming Cowboys football season, “The Black 14” incident began in Laramie. 14 black players were kicked off the team for wanting to protest what they saw as a racist institution.
The Black 14 wanted to wear black armbands during a game with Brigham Young University to protest a policy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which banned black priests. The church would eventually change their position in 1978.
In addition to the policy, the players also felt BYU's players were allowed to get away with overtly racist behavior. The last time UW faced BYU, several black UW players were treated with blatant racism on the field in Provo. When they went to talk to their coach about a peaceful on-field demonstration, Wyoming Head Coach Loyd Eaton suddenly ranted and 14 very good players were told they were no longer Wyoming Cowboys.
That story was featured on a CBS Sports Net documentary last February, Black History Month. When a little post on it appeared here, I was contacted by one of the 14. I’m proud to say that I’ve been good friends ever since with Jay Berry.
Jerome Berry came out of Tulsa when Cowboy Football had an attractive program and they wanted Jerome. (While here, his name somehow became Jerry Berry), earning a starting safety job. During that time, he only played in four games, but he rocked UW Football history with an interception returned 88 yards for a touchdown plus another pick six. Those two TDs are still a single-season record that has only been tied – never broken. After four games, however, he would never again suit up for the Cowboys.
Eventually, he found himself in television sports-casting (where his name was changed to Jay Berry), in Tulsa, Houston, Chicago, and Detroit. Jay had a great tv career. All 13 other players would do okay after their worlds were turned upside down that October.
After the Black 14 incident, the team tanked and Eaton was fired following the next dismal season. Cowboy Football would not return to power for years.