Over 50 years ago, a group of University of Wyoming football players, later known as the Black 14, asked to meet with their coach to present their idea of wearing black armbands during their game against Brigham Young University in protest of the Church’s priesthood policy. Rather than being heard or supported, the players were immediately kicked off the team by their coach.
The story made national news at the time and has been a significant moment in history ever since, but this Thanksgiving will change the narrative forever. When the pandemic set in on the campus of the University of Wyoming back in March, creating food shortages for many in their community, the Black 14 wanted to help. They had previously launched the Black 14 Philanthropy, and Mel Hamilton, a starting lineman for Wyoming prior to the incident, had actually connected with the Church over the years. “I’ll call Gifford Nielsen,” Hamilton told Deseret News’ Tad Walch.
Nielson, a former BYU and NFL quarterback, is now a General Authority Seventy. After working with Church leaders, he told Hamilton that the Church was prepared to donate 180 tons of goods, an amount that totals about $45,000 worth of food. Hamilton could only respond with a whisper: “Sweet Jesus.”
“This is all about healing and really the Savior’s grace,” said Elder Nielsen. “People will say, ‘What happened? You joined with your so-called adversary to do all of this? I want to be a part of that. How do I get involved?’ I can’t think of a better Thanksgiving story than this. This is a story of joy, this is a story of gratitude. This is an answer to prayer.”
For John Griffin, who was the University of Wyoming's star wide receiver before being kicked off the team, the story epitomizes what America is really all about.
“It is remarkable. This is an American story,” Griffin said. “Nobody could have written this 50 years ago, 10 years ago, two years ago. They can now. And it’s a heartwarming story. It’s not spin. It’s real. It’s in the hearts of all of us. If I passed away tomorrow, I have lived a full life. I have been a part of something that’s much bigger than me.”
Read the full story of the Black 14 from 1969 to 2020 at Deseret News.