It’s something of a truism that sports reflect society. Most of the time, those of us who write about sports focus on the moment--individual plays, individual athletes, or (sometimes) the course that a team or a league is currently taking. Every so often, however, sports writing does more.
Recently, Windy City Gridiron had the privilege of hosting such a piece of writing. Journalist and sports historian Jack Silverstein wrote this piece on the history of the ban on black players in the NFL. That article has reverberated through the city and the league.
Many regular readers understand the rare gift Silverstein has for being a responsible, determined investigator. This time, however, he outdid himself. On Sunday’s broadcast of the game against the Vikings, the history of the “throwback” uniforms was mentioned to a national audience. Sadly, that coverage did not acknowledge the role Silverstein’s article played in drawing attention to the issue of the player ban. Other media outlets have been more forthright.
The Chicago Sun Times drew attention to the article twice.
First, Jason Lieser:
”They have been marketing the jerseys since summer and will wear them for the first time against the Vikings. They are inspired by their 1936 uniforms, and black players were banned from 1934 through ’45. The Bears did not have a black player until 1952, Jack Silverstein wrote in an article detailing that chapter of NFL history last month.”
And then Patrick Finley:
”Days before the Bears published a video addressing the fact that their new throwback jerseys harken to a time when black players weren’t allowed in the league, chairman George McCaskey addressed the team himself.
Last week, he explained the history — black players were banned in the league from 1934-45, and the Bears didn’t have a black player until 1952 — and told the players, cornerback Prince Amukamara said, that grandfather George S. Halas “wasn’t a bigot or racist.”
McCaskey took questions from players and told them they might be asked about the uniforms by the media this week. The controversy had already appeared in pieces by Jack Silverstein in August and an op-ed Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote for the Sun-Times earlier this month.”
NBC Chicago also mentioned the article in a piece by Cam Ellis:
”The dark history behind the jerseys was first brought to light by Jack M Silverstein, in a well-written piece for the Bears blog Windy City Gridiron.”
Other outlets have also chimed in, and Jack has had the opportunity to draw greater attention to the issue. This time, society was asked to be honest about a truth in sports that was revealed, and those of us at Windy City Gridiron are honored to call Jack our colleague for the role he played in drawing that truth into the open.