As we prepare our fantasy leagues, marinade our BBQ for tailgate parties, and clear our schedules for various games of the 2014 NFL season, we football fans across the country rejoice over what we consider one of the best times of the year.
And while I, too, thank the Football Gods for returning the finest game in the world to us for another season, I speak for many fans when admitting that I’m only knowledgeable about the game’s modern history. As long as I’ve been able to hold the pigskin, color has never been all that widespread an issue in football (a lack of Black quarterbacks notwithstanding). But on September 23, the Epix network sheds light on the integration of the sport.
Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football is the little-known story of four brave men—Kenny Washington, Marion Motley, Bill Wells and Woody Strode—and their journey to break the color barrier of professional football in 1946 (a full year before Jackie Robinson was credited with integrating Major League Baseball). Featuring clips of the four players’ families, friends and members of the press, Forgotten Four shows the hardships they faced in an attempt to simply play the game they loved—battling time-tested league rules and regulations preventing Black players in the pros.
As both a Black man and a football fan, it was enlightening to hear the tale of the game’s early pioneers and what they went through in order to allow today’s stars the opportunity to display their talents for the world to see. Without a Woody Strode, we certainly wouldn’t have a Marshawn Lynch. Without a Kenny Washington, we wouldn’t have a Desean Jackson.
Hearing the stories of these trailblazers brings into focus a sobering vision of how far we as a people have come, and forces an appreciation for the opportunities that Black pro athletes have today. So before you get ready to cheer for your team’s future, take a look at Forgotten Four and remember just where we’ve been.
Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football premieres September 23 at 8pm ET/PT on Epix.