As the NFL celebrates its 100th anniversary season, one significant part of its history will largely go ignored.
The league will not point out that its first century includes the fact that it banned black players from 1934 to 1945, even though it never announced a ban and it got virtually no notice because the NFL wasn’t a big deal at the time.
According to Pro Football Chronicle, the league had 13 black players from 1920 to 1933 before it stopped hiring them.
Of course, baseball had been segregated from its early days, but it is curious that the NFL had black players, including some great ones like Fritz Pollard, before they banned them.
No reason was given for the change, but the fingerprints of Washington owner George Preston Marshall are all over the decision. He marketed his team to a southern audience and didn’t integrate until 1962, when the federal government insisted on it when the new stadium was built on federal land.
You might say that things have changed a lot in a league that is now about 70 percent black.
But not as much as you might think. There are few minorities in the coaching and executive ranks.
And then there is Colin Kaepernick, who has been treated the last three years the way blacks were from 1934 to 1945.
The league never said he was banned him, but no team has hired him since he became a free agent in 2017.
He became persona non grata after he knelt during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality against minorities.
And it now seems like he will never play again, even though TMZ ran a photo of him going to a gym in New York to work out the day after Andrew Luck retired. He is keeping himself ready, but the NFL has closed its doors to him.
The Indianapolis Colts didn’t call him to back up Jacoby Brissett just as no other team has called him.
All the signs are that Kaepernick will never get another chance even though he led a team to a Super Bowl and had 16 touchdown passes and just four picks while playing for a losing team in San Francisco in 2016.
When the league hired Jay Z in a nebulous role to apparently recruit black performers to appear in the halftime show because they were turning the league down, he said, “We’ve moved on from kneeling.” He gives them cover for banning Kaepernick.
Meanwhile, Roc Nation and the NFL announced the launch of Inspire Change apparel and Songs of Season to fund Inspire Change programs across the country.
To put it mildly, this got mixed reviews. There was no breakdown on how much of the profits would go to this program, and it gave the impression it was a marketing scheme.
Meanwhile, when the league last year settled the lawsuit filed by Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid for an undisclosed amount, Kaepernick’s lawyer predicted it would open the door to him returning. It didn’t. Reid is back in the league but not Kaepernick.
When Philadelphia lost Nick Foles, Kaepernick seemed a good choice to fill his backup role with the Eagles. Instead, they promoted Nate Sudfield and signed Cody Kessler and when they both got hurt, they grabbed Josh McCown, who was working with ESPN.
When Chad Henne broke an ankle, the Kansas City Chiefs signed Matt Moore.
And now the excuse is that he has been out for two years, even though the banned him the last two years. It is a Catch-22 situation for Kaepernick.
The only consolation for Kaepernick is that history will remember him kindly as a player who lost his career protesting racial injustice.
And today’s executives will be compared to the ones who banned blacks from 1934 to 1945.
The difference is that it got virtually no attention back in the day.
Now they are doing it in broad daylight. They have no shame.