Monday 16 January 2017

Rant on article on Martin Luther King Day

Okay, this is a bit of a rant.

In a recent post, I commented on Marion Motley and Bill Willis being two of the football players that helped break the color barrier of professional football.

Of course, the NFL does not recognize stats or achievements of the AAFC like they did with the AFL, so an article today on does not recognize Motley and Willis as having helped break the color barrier in 1946.

What I want to know is why they aren't listed for the Browns as a 1950 entry in this article when the Browns entered the NFL that year?

Entering the 1950 season, the Browns also had Horace Gillom and Len Ford. And the Browns are not even mentioned in the article. Way to go, NFL!

Here is a nice article written by Steve King in 2013 on the Browns website celebrating Black History Month that year. An interesting quote is:

But the importance of what Willis and Motley did comes with the realization that when Robinson got called up from the Dodgers’ Class AAA team in Montreal, he called Willis and Motley for any pointers they could give him since they had already been through the challenging experience he was about to undertake. That is, Willis and Motley were the real pioneers.

And just to include some cards that I own in this post, here are some scans borrowed from The Trading Card Database:

1951 Bowman #109

I also own a 1948-52 Exhibit card of Motley, but do not yet own his 1950 Bowman rookie card. He played with the Browns from 1946-53. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.

1951 Bowman #37

This is Gillom's rookie card. He was signed by the browns in early 1947. He played with the Browns from 1947-56.

1955 Bowman #14

Len Ford played for the Los Angeles Dons of the AAFC for the 1948-49 seasons before being signed by the Browns as they entered the NFL. He played for the Browns from 1950-57 before finishing his career with one year of playing for the Packers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976.

1992 Sunoco Browns Hall of Fame #8

Bill Willis played for the Browns from 1946-53. He did not have a trading card issued of him during his playing career. As you can see on the back of this card, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.


  1. I have found that the professional sports leagues do a very poor job of getting their own history correct. Between omissions and outright inaccuracies I don't put much stock in the "official word"

  2. It's almost as though some of them have gone to the Professional Wrestling School of History Writing.

  3. I would be more than happy to do the writing and research for the NFL for the proper salary.

    You witnessed me say this in person, but good gracious, those '55 Bowman cards are stellar.

  4. Hopefully they read this post and update theirs.

    1. No, they won't do that. It's a graphic and would get messed up.

      I also find it funny that they have the Redskins with Bobby Mitchell, which is accurate for their first African-American player, but of course he was traded there after four years with the Browns.