Help 5th Graders Elect the Man Who Changed the Face of the NFL to the Hall of Fame!
This petition had 12,019 supporters
Supported by the Kenny Washington Stadium Foundation
A Year Before Jackie Robinson Integrated Baseball, Kenny Washington Integrated the Modern NFL
Washington Belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
We are 5th graders at Johnson City Intermediate School in Johnson City, NY and one of our classmates wondered, “Who broke the color barrier in football?” as we were researching our Civil Rights projects. What we found shocked us! The man who first broke the color barrier in the modern day NFL is not in the Hall of Fame.
In 1946--a year before Jackie Robinson integrated baseball--Kenny Washington broke football’s color barrier ending a 12 year ban on African-Americans in the league when he signed with the Los Angeles Rams. Washington led the way for African-American players and changed the face of the NFL. Dr. Martin Luther King called him “a legend and a symbol in his own time.” Despite the racism he faced, his talent, character, perseverance and sportsmanship allowed him to “shape the sport’s history”, one of the standards of the Hall of Fame. Kenny Washington paved the way for generations of African-Americans and contributed not just to the past, but to the future of the NFL. We urge the Hall of Fame’s Nominating Committee to elect Kenny Washington as a deserving Contributor.
Kenny Washington was a trailblazer. He brought opportunities for all of those who followed. “Lift others as you rise.” Kenny Washington did that for NFL players. Today, African-American players account for more than 60% of the NFL. Kenny Washington persuaded the Rams to also sign his UCLA teammate, Woody Strode. The men were unwelcome in the league.
Washington overcame tremendous obstacles and racism. He faced everything Jackie Robinson did, and more. He was hit by opposing players purposely in his knees which were already weak from 5 surgeries (rickets as a child, getting hit by a car) and had chalk rubbed in his eyes as opponents piled on top of him. In spite of facing racism from all sides, Washington had an outstanding career.
The color ban robbed Kenny Washington of valuable time in professional football. Washington was a Los Angeles high school football hero and continued an incredible career at UCLA. He was UCLA’s first All American, played for 580 of 600 minutes and was the first African-American in the UCLA Hall of Fame. Washington was first in the country in total offense his senior year at UCLA (1939) and after the senior All-Star game almost all players were signed by a pro team. But not Kenny Washington. George Halas wanted Washington for the Bears, but even Halas could not get the color ban overturned. Kenny Washington played semi-pro football where he was a star and the most popular player on two teams on the West Coast in between, but it was 7 years later that Washington got his shot in the NFL. In his three seasons with the Rams, Kenny Washington had 859 total yards, 8 touchdowns, 6.1 yards per average rushing and a 92 yard run from scrimmage that is STILL a record for the Rams today, 69 years later!
The time to elect Kenny Washington to the Hall of Fame is now! We can all agree that the color ban was wrong. But the way to truly fix it, decades later, is to recognize the man who broke that barrier. As stated on the Hall of Fame’s website, “The Hall of Fame is...an educational institution that focuses on education, promoting, preserving and honoring the great individuals and moments that have shaped the sport’s history.” Breaking the sport’s color barrier definitely shaped the NFL’s history. The Hall of Fame needs to acknowledge, recognize, celebrate and honor Kenny Washington’s contribution.
Electing Kenny Washington to the Hall of Fame also sends the message to students like us that being brave, overcoming obstacles and standing up for what is right is recognized even after many years. With the Rams moving back to Los Angeles, it is the perfect time to acknowledge the past and celebrate a man who blazed the trail for so many who are playing today. It would be a great way to welcome the Rams back home.
Join us in asking the Hall of Fame to admit Kenny Washington for his role in history.
Mrs. Turner's and Mrs. Rice’s 5th Grade Classes, Johnson City Intermediate School, Johnson City, NY
44 students, including those whose names are listed below:
Sheja Ahmad, Adean B., David Akulis, Ayden B., Ayshah Almashni, Hallie Brigham, Ali Al-Shimary, Tanaya Butler, Jeffrey A., Noah K., Christy B., Chloe K., Taniya C., Logan M., Lainey D., Gianna Monico, Abigail Hardy-Teekasingh, Ariana Rubin, Kaylin Mazyck, Andrew Sprague-Getsy, Roman Shypylak, Veronica T., Avrey Stallman, Jessica Troung, Andy T., Nahsear Vannavongsa, Miyah Welsh Clarke
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