BYU to honor the Black 14, a group of former Wyoming football players who once protested LDS church policy

BYU will on Saturday night recognize members of the Black 14, a group of former Wyoming players who resigned from the team in 1969 to protest Latter-day Saint church policies that prohibited black men from becoming priests.

Black 14 members Mel Hamilton and John Griffin will serve as the “Y Lighters” and will be honored ahead of BYU’s home game against Wyoming. In 1969, as part of a protest by the school’s Black Student Alliance against LDS priestly politics, Hamilton, Griffin, and 12 of their black teammates required the wearing of black armbands to the BYU game. Wyoming coach Lloyd Eaton kicked her out of the team.

The Black 14 later formed a philanthropic organization to help communities in need and partnered with Latter-day Saint charities to provide food to the communities. In 2020, the group delivered more than 180 tons of groceries in eight states near the homes of Black 14 members.

The BYU School of Communications made a documentary about the Black 14 and their work with LDS charities that was shown to BYU coaches and athletes and aired publicly this week in Provo, Utah. Hamilton and Griffin participated in several discussions and presentations on BYU’s campus this week. They will be on the field for the first time since the 1968 game between BYU and Wyoming at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“It took me years to tell my story, I was angry for ten years,” Griffin said in a statement. “What we decided to do and when Mel got in touch [former BYU quarterback] Gifford Nielsen, developed a partnership focused on returning food to those in need. This relationship has grown into something very special. If you look at what happened to us in 1969, you could say today that it was tragedy turned into philanthropy. That’s essentially what we’ve done and we’re not done yet.”

BYU President Kevin Worthen added, “It’s quite powerful to say that there’s a lot we can do for our communities to help them, but also to help heal the wounds that have been felt in the past while we… serve today.”

The Black 14’s honor comes after Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson, who is Black, said she repeatedly heard a racial slur from someone on the BYU grad during an Aug. 26 game at BYU. BYU conducted a “comprehensive review” of the incident and found no evidence of racist heckling. The school lifted a ban on a fan it had banned from sporting events immediately after Richardson’s allegations. BYU to honor the Black 14, a group of former Wyoming football players who once protested LDS church policy

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