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Black History Month: 'The Buddy Young Memo'

Black History Month: 'The Buddy Young Memo'

02/25/2021
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In 1964, Pete Rozelle, commissioner of the National Football League, hired Claude “Buddy” Young as the first African American executive in any of America’s major sports leagues.

Young had played more than 100 games as a fullback and halfback in the All-America Football Conference and NFL with teams in New York, Dallas and Baltimore.

Rozelle lured Young from the Colts’ front office to be his expert and confidante on several league matters. In one of his first major initiatives, and arguably most historically important, Young wrote a memo titled “Some Observations on the NFL and Negro Players.”

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Young wrote that it would be in pro football’s best interests, competitively and financially, to consider how it treated its Black athletes. He urged every team to employ at least one Black in its front office “for the expressed purpose of communicating with representatives of the African American community.”

He also urged more diversity in hiring, saying Blacks “should be represented as much on the sidelines, in the front-office, and in the background as on the field. Deliberate pains should be taken to assure their presence.”

Rozelle distributed the memo to the 15 teams in the NFL at that time with the admonition they “Please give it your careful consideration.”

Buddy Young’s words would prove to be highly accurate and years – decades, really – ahead of their time. To read more about his life, which tragically was cut short by an auto accident, and the historic memo, read this tribute from Mike Pearson on FightingIllini.com.

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