March 21st: The Los Angeles Rams Sign Kenny Washington

March 21, 2023

On March 21, 1946, the Los Angeles Rams signed Kenny Washington, making him the first African American player to sign a contract with a National Football League (NFL) team since 1933. The signing of Washington marked the end of the NFL’s unofficial ban on black players that had lasted for over a decade.

Prior to Washington’s signing, African Americans had been excluded from the NFL since 1933, when the league implemented a “gentlemen’s agreement” among team owners not to sign black players. This decision was influenced by a number of factors, including racism and segregationist policies that were prevalent in American society at the time.

Washington, who had been a standout college football player at UCLA, was signed by the Rams after pressure from the city, as well as the African-American sports editor of the LA tribune, William Harding.

Washington’s debut with the Rams was met with both excitement and hostility. While many fans were excited to see an African American player on the field, others expressed anger and racism, with some even threatening violence.

Washington’s signing with the Rams paved the way for other African American players to join the NFL, and he is remembered today as a pioneer in the fight for racial equality in sports.


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