MLK Day And Sports Barriers

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MLK first surfaced as a civil rights advocate in 1947.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration is taking place at various venues around the country including NBA arenas. In 1946, 17-year-old M. L. King sent a letter to the editor of the Atlanta Constitution writing that blacks “are entitled to the basic rights and opportunities of American citizens.” At that time, the National Basketball League was hiring black players but for some reason, the new Basketball Association of America made up mostly of big East Coast cities, did not hire black players. The NBL was mostly made up of smaller Midwest cities. The BAA and NBL merged in August 1949 and the combined league still had a color barrier. That was lifted in 1950. Not one of the sixteen Major League Baseball teams had Negro players in 1946. In 1946, the National Football League was forced to desegregate because the Cleveland Rams owner Daniel Reeves decided to move his team to the Los Angeles Coliseum and was told that he had to hire Negro players or he could not use the facility. The newly formed All America Football Conference Cleveland Browns’ franchise did hire two Negro players.

When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became heavily involved in the civil rights movement with the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in December 1955. There was an unofficial quota of four Negro players on each National Football League team. No Negro could be a quarterback, a center or a middle linebacker because it was thought, Negroes lacked intelligence. Not every NFL team had black players and the same held true in Major League Baseball. The Harlem Globetrotters basketball team could entertain in southern cities, But the players could not stay at certain hotels or eat at certain restaurants. When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968, the sports civil rights movement was at its height.

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