I was going through some of the Greater Seatle, Inc., files from the post-Century 21 era and came across this column by California columnist Jack Smith (I think this is him) It was sent by the clipping service because of the mention of UW athlete Brian Sternberg and Oakland's playing a 'charity' game in Seattle, but I'm posting it because of the references to Raiders coach Davis, who recently died (october 8, 2011).
This article reflects how Al Davis not just felt, but acted in the early 1960s towards his African-American players. He apparently wasn't afraid to show his support for his players even when it wasn't financially positive. And I do realize here in the 21st Century, close to 50 years after this article was written, that the fans and other people in the South no longer act the way they did.
By Jack Smith
THERE WILL BE A FOOTBALL game Sunday at Oakland's Frank Youell Field, one that should have been played in Mobile, Alabama, But because six Negro athletes on the Raiders rightfully refused to play before a segregated audience and because the Oakland team and the American Football League respected that decision, the New York Jets and the Raiders will meet here, not in the deep south.
"We don't want four boys from Oakland telling us how to run our stadium", said the Mobile stadium manager righoutsly. He meant he didn't want four "n*****s" we suspect, but in deference to the national wire services employed the softer terminology. It means the same thing; the colored athlete is still not welcome on many playing fields within a confederacy that should have died 100 years but didn't. Its sickest root has thrived oin prejudice; the quiet and firm protests of the Negro race still seeking its freedom was bound to spill over onto the sports pages, as it already has many times.
THE NEGRO ATHLETE, even before the exploits of Jessie Owens, has been the best spokesman for the race through his many accomplishments and talents. He is accepted almost everywhere today and no major sport is without its Negro performers, usually among the very best in ability and deportment. Any area that denies itself the pleasure of seeing such men play is chastising itself as well as a race.
It is time, we would think, for East Bay fans to respond to the Raiders to the point of filling Youell Field to overflowing. The organization has grown up, to the point of expending a few bucks to back a point. Admittedly in need of money, the Raiders first played an exhibition game gratis in Seattle to benefit Brian Sternberg, a champion pole vaulter who was paralyzed in a trampoline accident.
Now they have cancelled a game in Mobile, despite losing a $15,000 guarantee and picking up an additional tab for pre-game publicity by Mobile's civic-minded groups. And the league backed them, all because of a principle.
WE PARTICULARLY LIKED the statement of Oakland General-Manager Al Davis, explaining his backing of the Negroes on his team: "These men are not only our players, but also our friends. We will certainly respect their decision not to play." Davis made that statement over a month ago and repeated it just as firmly when it meant cancellation of the game and the loss of needed gate receipts. The Raiders are, incidentally, in business to make money and did not have to give up, same for the sake of a principle. But they did.
Typical of the enlightened and friendly attitude on the Raider squad is a little incident that happened in Santa Rosa training. The defensive backs were posing for a picture, and All-League back Fred Williamson—one of the four protestants—was a little out of camera range. Public Relations Director Bill urged, "Come on, Fred, integrate". With a comical shiver, Williamson said, "I can't, I'm thinking about Mobile". Its too bad some of our southern citizens can't approach the problem with the same easy humor; it would go a long way to erase the ugliness that incidents such as this cancellation create.
INCIDENTALLY, THE RAIDERS have been winning football games, a sure incentive for backing by local fans. Frank Youell Field should be filled Sunday, but it probably won't be. The last minute switch to the West Coast creates a lot of promotional problems and ticket confusion. Besides which, the 49ers and Giants will be displaying their wares in San Francisco at the same time.
We're happy to see a football game; the south can send us all the ones they don't want. If they want to switch the Michigan State — Alabama game to the coast, it would draw. Out here, it doesn't much matter who sits next to whom, and the men's room is open to both races.
You are at JackGordon.org,
a salute to John F "Jack" Gordon, Mr. Seattle
Copyright © 2010, 2011 John R. Gordon