Obit Earl Lloyd Basketball

History of Racial Integration in Professional Sports

Most people know that Jackie Robinson was a pioneer when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. He has been celebrated for decades and had his number 42retired by every major league team. His Hall of Fame baseball career broke barriers and inspired many others to follow in his footsteps. But do you know who else played the same role in other professional sports? If you don't know, you're about to find out! Kenny Washington was the first African American to sign a professional contract with an NFL team. In 1946, he earned his big break and suited up for the Los Angeles Rams. He didn't have to travel far because he attended UCLA where, interestingly enough, he was a teammate of Jackie Robinson on both the football and baseball teams. Pretty impressive! The NBA had three different players who broke the color barrier, all during the 1950 season. Chuck Cooper played for the Boston Celtics and tallied nearly 3,000 points during his career. Sweetwater Clifton played for the New York Knicks and scored more than 5,000 points during his playing days. And Earl Lloyd played for the Detroit Pistons and later became a coach. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. Finally, we get to the ice, where Willie O'Ree played more than 20 years of professional hockey. He is best known for his 1957 NHL debut with the Boston Bruins where he played in 45 games and scored 4 goals. These gentlemen not only demonstrated amazing athleticism but also the courage to overcome longstanding prejudices. They faced their fears and stared down the critics to make an indelible mark on their sport. Their perseverance opened doors for the thousands of athletes who followed!