Below is the second act of my two-part series on Ivie Moore, an Arkansan sports pioneer who should be remembered.
It cost all of them.
Eaton didn’t sympathize. Indeed, his reaction was the opposite of what the players hoped for, Hamilton recalled in a wyohistory.org interview:
“He took us to the bleachers in the Field House and sat us down, and the first word out of his mouth was, ‘Gentlemen, you are no longer on the football team.’ And then he started ranting and raving about taking us away from welfare, taking us off the streets, putting food in our mouths. If we want to do what we want to do, we could [go] to the Grambling [College] and the Bishop [College], which are primarily black schools, historically black schools.
And so he–he just berated us. Tore us down from top to bottom in a racial manner.”
The players emptied their lockers that same day. They requested a future meeting with Eaton along with school administrators, but Eaton didn’t show up. In the ensuing weeks, Laramie became the epicenter of a national civil rights debate involving students’ rights, the power of the athletic department and free expression.
“As the student and faculty groups sought to challenge the dismissals, the demise of the Black athletes began to garner support around the WAC and around the country. The success of the football team and program guaranteed national exposure, evidenced by the arrival in Laramie of ABC, CBS, and NBC film crews,” Clifford Bullock wrote in a scholarly article for the University of Wyoming.
“On October 23, 1969, President Carlson and Coach Eaton held a press conference and announced an immediate change in Eaton’s rule regarding protests. This policy change would not affect, however, the Blacks already dismissed. It was at this press conference that Sports Illustrated reported that President Carlson admitted that at Wyoming, football was more important than civil rights.”
The controversy stirred policy change elsewhere, too. In November 1969, Stanford’s president barred new commitments to intercollegiate competition with institutions sponsored by the Mormon Church. But despite a federal lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Wyoming’s 14 players were never reinstated nor did they receive damages for violation of their civil rights. Additionally, friendships between Wyoming’s white and (former) black players fractured following Eaton’s expulsion. Before it, there had been no reported racial strife between the players although Moore did say the black players tended to “stay among ourselves by choice” in Lane Demas’ Integrating the Gridiron: Black Civil Rights and American College Football. Afterward, in a show of support for their coach, nearly every white player refused to speak to their black ex teammates.
One of them, ’69 captain Tommy Tucker, told the Denver Post he was bothered that the Black 14 allowed their cause to spill onto the football field. “They signed on to play football for the university, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a gay university. I wouldn’t demonstrate against them,” said Tucker, a Salt Lake City native who owns an insurance business there. “I come to play football and win football games. If I want to protest, I’ll do it on my own time.”
A similar sentiment is shared by many of the Razorback fans who watched Jonathan Williams’ “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture against Missouri, as reader comments on this ArkansasFight.com piece indicate.
Many of the Black 14 went on to enjoy professional success. Two played in the NFL. Tony McGee transferred to historically black Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, then played 14 seasons in the pros and won a Super Bowl with Washington. Joe Williams won a Super Bowl with Dallas and developed his own investment consulting business.
While some of the other Black 14’s pro aspirations might have taken a hit because of their stand, their legacy endures. In 1970, BYU included the first black player on its football team and in 1978 the Mormon Church lifted its ban on blacks in the priesthood.
Things have not gone well for Ivie Moore. He briefly played minor league pro football for the Norfolk Neptunes and eventually returned to Arkansas where he worked as a floor subcontractor. According to Black 14, published in 2009, he lost contact with the rest of the Black 14 and was “incarcerated at one time.”
It appears he recently returned to jail. In 2013, a 63-year-old man by the same name (and who looks like an older version of Ivie Moore picture at the top of Part 1) was arrested in Pine Bluff and charged with shoplifting.
The hope here is that this forgotten Arkansan pioneer turns his life around.
-Cowboys football was set back by at least a decade due to the turmoil of 1969. Aside from a brief stint in 1987-88, it hasn’t regained its late 1960s status. “The negative publicity affected Wyoming’s football program for years,” Phil White wrote for wyohistory.org. “Following the dismissal of the 14, the Cowboys lost 26 of their next 38 games through 1972. They had only one winning season during the 1970s.”
–Wyoming’s stadium, coincidentally, has the same name as Arkansas’ Little Rock home: War Memorial Stadium