Racial integration was slow to come to the NFL with the first black player, George Taliaferro was not drafted until 1949, and only then in the 13th round of the draft.  The AAFC, which formed in 1946, was more proactive in signing black players; in 1946, the Cleeland Browns signed Marion Motley and Bill Willis, and by the time the AAFC merged with the NFL in 1950, six of the league's eight teams had signed black players, most by the league's second season in 1947. Only three of the ten NFL teams signed a black player before 1950. In 1950 the Green Bay Packers signed on, but the bulk of NFL teams did not sign a black player until 1952, by which time every team but the Washington Redskins had signed a black player.

George Preston Marshall was owner and president of the Washington Redskins. He was quoted as saying "We'll start signing Negroes when theHarlem Globetrotters start signing whites." In spite of this open bias, Marshall was elected to the NFL'sPro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. As part of his "qualifications" for enshrinement, the hall says: "Marshall was totally involved in all aspects of his team's operation and endured his share of criticism for not integrating his team until being forced to do so in 1962." The Redskins had no black players until they succumbed to the threat of civil-rights legal action by the Kennedy administration. The Redskins eventually came through by signing Bobby Mitchell and two other African American players by 1962.

Even when the NFL did sign black players, poor treatment was evident. At the same time as black players were being reintroduced to the NFL, there was also an influx of players from theSouthern United Staes, who held particular hostility toward blacks; this discouraged several black players from playing in the NFL, with some opting to go north to what would become the Canadian Football League, which was at its peak of competitiveness with the NFL at the time. Reportedly, black players routinely received lower contracts than whites in the NFL, while in the American Football League there was no such distinction based on race. Position segregation was also prevalent at this time. According to several books, such as the autobiography of Vince Lombardi, black players were stacked at "speed" positions such as D-Backs but excluded from "intelligent" positions such asQuarterback and Center. However, despite the NFL's segregationist policies, after the league merged with the more tolerant AFL in 1970, more than 30% of the merged league's players were African American.

The American Football League actively recruited players from small colleges that had been largely ignored by the NFL, giving those schools' black players the opportunity to play professional football. As a result, for the years 1960 through 1962, AFL teams averaged 17% more blacks than NFL teams did. By 1969, a comparison of the two league's championship team photos showed the AFL's Chiefs with 23 black players out of 51 players pictured, while the NFL Vikings had 11 blacks, of 42 players in the photo. The American Football League had the first black placekicker in U.S. professional football, Gene Mingo of the Denver Broncos and the first black regular starting quarterback of the modern era, James Harris of the Buffalo BillsWill Thrower was a back-up quarterback who saw some action in the 1950s for the Chicago Bears.

 The black players were placed at the "skill" positions, which is another way of saying they were asked to just run fast. Their white counterparts held on to the positions that were considered the "cerebral" or "central" positions. "Centrality" is an advanced theory many sociologists point to in order to explain why positions like quarterback, center, middle linebacker and safety were off limits to the black players.

These positions were "central" because they required critical thinking skills and communication to teammates. Black athletes during that period were deemed not smart enough to communicate effectively and incapable of leading. I don't want to fail to mention there was a natural quota system in play because all of the black players were competing for the same few jobs. So the league was "integrated" but with positional stipulations and numeric accountability. Black players readily accepted their "roles" because prior to 1946 blacks weren't playing at all.

George Preston Marshall

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