It was October, 1969 — a turbulent time in American history, with demonstrations and protests abounding around the country, sparked by the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.
So when 14 black Wyoming football players decided to wear black armbands for the game against BYU — to protest what they considered to be "racist practices" of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and operates BYU — and when then-Cowboys coach Lloyd Eaton decided to boot those 14 players, which included seven starters, from the team for that decision, it touched off a maelstrom of controversy and it immediately became a national story. The following week, reporters from media outlets like the New York Times and Sports Illustrated descended upon Laramie to chronicle the episode.
And the ramifications of the "Black 14" incident have since resonated for decades.
During the week of the 1969 BYU-Wyoming game, the Black Student Alliance at Wyoming announced it was planning to stage a demonstration outside the stadium against the LDS Church because it did not allow blacks to hold the priesthood (it wasn't until 1978 that blacks were granted that opportunity). The Black 14 insisted on being part of that protest by wearing black armbands as a symbolic gesture, but Eaton rejected that plan and meted out a severe punishment against those players for violating team rules prohibiting players' involvement in protests.