Wyoming’s ‘Black 14’ Jay Berry Sets The Record Straight
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CBS Sports Network premieres a new documentary for Black History Month on the 11th, about “The Black 14,” and Jay Berry hopes they get it right.
We revisited The 1969 Cowboy football season here, and that prompted an email from one of the original 14.
Jerome Berry, was hot out of Tulsa. The Cowboys, who had an attractive program then wanted him on the team. Jerome, AKA Jerry Berry, started in his sophomore year. During that time, he would only play in four games. But in that short span, he rocked history with an interception returned 88 yards for a touchdown plus another pick six in a single season. Those two events are still single season records that were only tied – never broken.
Eventually, he found himself in television sports-casting, starting back in Tulsa, he would move to Houston, Chicago, and Detroit. On television, his name was immediately changed once again, this time to Jay Berry, and Jay has had a great career under that name.
The 14 black players wanted to silently protest BYU with black armbands. During the previous year, BYU players consistently taunted them with racial epithets. The Church of Latterday Saints had also recently announced African-American would not be allowed into the priesthood in their church. But when the players asked their coach for support they were demoralized and dejected. Jay says this media often said the players were anti-Mormon, but they were fighting for respect and dignity. A new documentary is revisiting one of Wyoming’s largest civil rights moments in history. Jay is hoping this one gets it right.
Jay and I exchanged many emails and a heckuva phone chat. Here are a few of those Email highlights.
Jay Berry: Scott, I saw your quick synopsis of the documentary on the Black 14. I hope CBS gets it right.
I’m presently in Florida and also enjoy Michigan the rest of the year. Everywhere I landed, the Black 14 story followed, and rarely was it accurate, which, is why I have a bit of interest to get it right.
When we reached out to [Then Wyoming Head Coach] coach Eaton, hoping to explain our feelings, we were met with racially charged statements. “If not for me, you’d all be at Grambling or Morgan State, starving to death.” That’s what coach Eaton shouted before we even had an opportunity to state our case.
Think about it. Why would we jeopardize an undefeated season, a bowl game, a potential top-ten finish in college ranks, and notice by the NFL – all because of someone else’s religion? I wouldn’t!
Scott: Hey Jay, how many of the 14 are still with us?
Jay: Hi Scott! I’m pretty sure there are 11 of us left, including one of the two players who went back on the team. That’s a real story because they had to ask the team to receive them back. The former sports editor for The [Branding Iron] Newspaper quit in protest, over what happened to us, and has written some historic stuff, now entered into the state archives. Also last year, I did an interview with the BBC. Look at the number of people Eaton hurt. He tore apart an undefeated team. He altered lives because of his attitude. When asked about it years later, he was quoted as saying that he would do it all over again.
Don’t forget the University President, Athletic Director, Governor – even the Federal Judge played major roles that allowed Eaton to get away with kicking us off the team.
Eaton denied our right of free speech, told us to shut up when we tried to say something, went racial, and then lied about it.
For more of his chat with Scott, check out Scott’s great conversation with Jay above.