12-year ban on black players

Richard Sherman puzzled by two NFL PED tests in two weeks

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MIAMI – Despite all of the money and effort the NFL has put into promoting its 100th season, there’s a part of the league’s history that has been conspicuously ignored.

Then again, given the league’s ongoing struggles with diversity, this shouldn’t really be a surprise.

For 12 years, from 1934 to 1946, there were no black players in the NFL. That’s right. For more than a decade, some of the most famous owners in the league’s history – George “Papa Bear” Halas, Art Rooney and Wellington Mara among them – had an unspoken agreement to ban black players.

“I did not know that,” Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland said this week. “That’s crazy to believe.”

And, yet, it’s really not. The ignorance that continues to keep minorities from getting jobs as coordinators, head coaches and general managers can be directly traced to the racism and bigotry that locked minorities out of the league for those 12 years.

Bill Willis, shown in 1944 as a member of the Ohio State football team, helped break the color barrier in the NFL, playing for the Cleveland Browns from 1946 to '53.

“I do think that has an influence on minority hires,” San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said. “It’s just an old-school mindset that needs to be overcome.”

The NFL is hardly the only league with a racist past. But baseball at least has had the courage to confront its failings.

Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997, and he’s honored each year on April 15, the day he broke baseball’s color barrier. Negro Leaguers, many of whom never had a chance to play in the majors, are eligible for the Hall of Fame.



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