If you look at the makeup of the NFL today over 70% of its players are Black and have arguably reshaped the modern game. But in the 1940’s, it wasn’t that way. Professional football was segregated.
But in 1946, four men, Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley and Bill Willis integrated football. But despite how impactful their presence was to today’s billion dollar sport, their names have largely been lost to history. A new dcoumentary The Forgotten Four hopes to address that.
Former NFL player Donovan McNabb says that while people think of Jackie Robinson as the poster boy for sports integration, he also played football and played with the four men.
“You mentioned Jackie Robinson but not a lot of people know that Jackie played football with those guys,” McNabb told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. As African-Americans, we need to learn more about the history. We love participating in different sports but to learn more about the history takes more effort. It all starts with the parents and they may not even know the history.
This is something special for all history buffs. When you learn about the guys that played 20-3o years before I had the opportunity to step on the field, you have to learn about the adversities that they had to overcome and the things that they set for us to give us the ability to fulfill a dream.”
McNabb believes that the NFL’s pioneers would be proud of their contributions that helped shaped the modern game.
“If they were alive, they would be pretty excited about where we are today. The percentage of black guys in the NFL is extremely high. They’d be upset, just like I am, about the off-the-field activities. When you look at the off-the-field issues in the last couple of years, it’s been all African-American players. We need to come together as a unit and just try to eliminate the negativity.”
The Forgotten Four airs on EPIX on September 23 at 8pm ET/PT.