Ivie Moore will likely never meet Razorback Jonathan Williams. It appears Moore has hit some serious hard times down in the Pine Bluff area. For Williams, four decades younger, life in Fayetteville is ascendant. The All-SEC running back helped power one of the strongest Arkansas season finishes in decades and come August will headline a dark horse contender for the SEC West crown. God willing, he’ll be training for the NFL this time next year.
While the lives of Moore and Williams have little in common these days, they did intersect once. As college football players, both took brief turns in the spotlight as supporting characters in a much larger drama involving social movements sweeping the nation. Williams’ moment happened just a few weeks ago, with a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture captured on national television. Moore’s time came more than 45 years before, as one of the “Black 14” whose legacy is cemented in Laramie, Wyoming…
The late 1960s were a time a massive social upheaval in the United States. The Vietnam War and Beatles were at full blast, and in the span of three months in 1968 political icons Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Young Americans openly rebelled against authoritarian figures for a variety of reasons and sports presented no sanctuary from the winds of change. Basketball, track and football student-athletes participated in protests against racial injustices and Vietnams across the United States.
In October, 1969, one of the sports world’s most significant political protests sent tremors through the University of Wyoming, where Pine Bluff native Ivie Moore was starting at defensive back. Moore, a junior, had transferred from a Kansas community college and was part of a perennial WAC championship program that had in recent years beaten Florida State in the Sun Bowl and barely lost to LSU in the Sugar Bowl. In 1969, Wyoming got out to a 4-0 start, rose to No. 12 in the nation and was primed to pull off the most successful season in school history.
It never happened. Not after Mel Hamilton, one of the school’s 14 black players, learned about an upcoming Black Student Alliance protest in advance of an upcoming home game* against BYU. The year before, in Wyoming’s victory at BYU, some of the black players said the Cougars players taunted them with racial epithets, according to a 2009 Denver Post article. “The Wyoming players had also learned that the Mormon Church, which BYU represents, did not allow African-Americans in the priesthood.” Hamilton, Moore and the other 12 black players wanted to show support for the protest by wearing black armbands.
Their militaristic head coach, Lloyd Eaton, had reminded them of a team rule forbidding factions within the team and participation in protests. The black players met and decided it would be best if as a group they met with their coach to discuss what they felt was a matter of conscience. On October, 18, the day before the BYU game, they dressed in street clothes and walked to his office wearing the black armbands they had been considering for the game. “We just wanted to discuss this in an intelligent manner,” “Black 14” member Joe Williams recounted in the Laramie Boomerang. “We wanted to play this game no matter what. We hadn’t even decided to ask permission to wear the armbands during the game.”
“It kind of scared me at first because I knew every one of the Black 14 could have played pro. I knew if we stood up it could damage our careers,” Ivie Moore said in Black 14: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Wyoming Football. “But I knew that at some point in time you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in.”
“And after thinking about it, I stood up.”