By Phil Riske
Managing Editor, Rose Law Group Reporter
Today is Martin Luther King Day 2013.
Today is the day American’s first black president is inaugurated for a second term.
So, today is a good day to reflect on just how far we’ve advanced beyond racial and religious stereotypes and prejudices
My grandfather once told me the worst thing that could happen to me would be to look in the mirror and see a black face. As a tot, I didn’t understand what he meant until years later I read “Black Like Me,” the story of a white man who traveled the country in blackface and wrote about racial discrimination.
While a student at the University of Wyoming and a radio reporter in 1969, the football coach kicked all 14 black players off the team before a game with Brigham Young University (BYU) because they wanted to wear black armbands in the game to protest a Mormon policy that prohibited blacks from achieving the priesthood in the Mormon Church, which runs BYU.
The collision of two biases polarized the state and came close to armed conflict.
A civil rights lawsuit brought by the black players went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the court found their rights had not been violated by the university.
The Black 14 case exacerbated prejudice against the Mormon Church, destroyed recruitment of black football players to UW and caused head coach Lloyd Eaton to leave.
On the other hand, the Black 14 case years later brought about a change in Mormon policy to allow black priests, and the University of Wyoming apologized for what had divided the state.
Today, a nation where black athletes lost their scholarships, where a religion was accused of racial discrimination, a black man is allowed for a second time to lead the nation on a date commemorating Martin Luther King, another black man with a dream.
Related: University of Wyoming Football: Forever in the Shadow of the Black 14