BYU premieres documentary ‘The Black 14: Healing Hearts and Feeding Souls’

Sep 23, 2022, 10:48 PM

PROVO, Utah — There’s a lot of history with BYU football.

Saturday’s game against Wyoming in Provo will bring some of that history back. Not for former BYU players, but for former Wyoming players.

“As a whole, their story is amazing,” said Elisabeth Ahlstrom, a senior at BYU.

It’s a story many people might not know, which is why BYU journalism students did a documentary on it. They’re calling it The Black 14.“It’s definitely blown up way bigger than we imagined,” Ahlstrom said. “It’s a story I think needs to be told.”

The Black 14 refers to 14 Wyoming football players who, back in 1969, were planning on protesting their game against BYU by wearing black armbands. It was during the Civil Rights movement, and the players were critical of how Blacks weren’t allowed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints priesthood and other racial issues.

Wyoming’s coach found out about their plan and kicked all 14 of them off the team. It’s a move that shocked them.

“I think what they went through is incredibly moving and incredibly touching,” said Abby Gunderson, a senior at BYU who helped make the documentary. “That was the number one priority, just making sure that we portrayed their experience and truly their feelings accurately.”

BYU journalism students visited 11 states in 10 days interviewing former players.

The documentary premiere and screening was held on BYU’s campus Friday evening.

Two members of the Black 14 were there. They are proud of what they stood for back then. They’re just as proud now of the reconciliation between themselves and the Church.

“We have to pay it forward. We have to pay it forward. And these people have been so kind,” said Mel Hamilton, one of The Black 14.Now, the Black 14 and the Church have teamed up to donate food to food banks across the country. It’s a coalition the players would’ve never thought would happen.

“It’s quite moving, actually,” said John Griffin, a member of The Black 14. “Not in my wildest dreams. I would’ve lost money on that bet because this is not going to happen, nobody cares about that.”

It proves, sometimes, history can help change the future.

“When we come together to help other people, that’s when we’re going to be truly unified, and that’s when we’re going to do the most good,” Gunderson said.

The Black 14 will light the Y in Y Mountain before Saturday’s game. They will also be honored during BYU’s game against Wyoming.

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BYU premieres documentary ‘The Black 14: Healing Hearts and Feeding Souls’