Examining the black player experience in the American Football League
Mavericks, Money, and Men
The AFL, Black Players, and the Evolution of Modern Football
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Charles K. Ross
The American Football League, established in 1960, was innovative both in its commitment to finding talented, overlooked players—particularly those who played for historically black colleges and universities—and in the decision by team owners to share television revenues.
In Mavericks, Money and Men, football historian Charles Ross chronicles the AFL's key events, including Buck Buchanan becoming the first overall draft pick in 1963, and the 1965 boycott led by black players who refused to play in the AFL-All Star game after experiencing blatant racism. He also recounts how the success of the AFL forced a merger with the NFL in 1969, which arguably facilitated the evolution of modern professional football.
Ross shows how the league, originally created as a challenge to the dominance of the NFL, pressured for and ultimately accelerated the racial integration of pro football and also allowed the sport to adapt to how African Americans were themselves changing the game.
Read Chapter 1 (pdf).
"[T]he emergence of the American Football League (AFL) created an excitement unmatched in professional sports.... Ross focuses on the league's recruitment of black players from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) such as Grambling State, Florida A&M, and North Carolina Central.... [Ross] aptly documents the evolution of the current NFL and how the integration of professional football paralleled the social integration of American life. VERDICT An important chapter in U.S. racial history of the 1960s. Recommended for all collections."
"Ross clearly frames how the AFL contributed to the transformation of professional football from a mid-tier sport to the dominant position it currently holds in the American sport marketplace.... Mavericks, Money, and Men is strongest in its narratives of black players who struggled to enter the hostile world of white professional football.... Ross also provides interesting, and overlooked, insights into the AFL's relationship with the media."
"Ross's historical narrative uniquely describes captivating moments, offers an important account of 1960s racial history, and provides a significant amount of information pertaining to the integration of African Americans in professional football and in broader American culture and society. This work is recommended for undergraduate students, graduate students, historians, social scientists, and general readers interested in race and sports history."
1. A New League with New Opportunities
Epilogue: The State of the Game II
About the Author(s)
Charles K. Ross is the Chair of the African American Studies Program and Associate Professor of African American Studies and History at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League and the editor of Race and Sport: The Struggle for Equality On and Off the Field.
African American Studies
In the series
Sporting, edited by Amy Bass.
As an international cultural activity for athleticism, spectatorship, and global cultural exchange, sport is unmatched by any other force on earth. And yet it remains a consistently understudied dimension of history and cultural studies. Sporting, edited by Amy Bass, aims to contribute to the study of sport by publishing works by people across a range of disciplines, by professional sportswriters, and by athletes to add substance to our still emerging notion of globalization.