Fritz Pollard made history in 1916, but it took many years before he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In fact, if you do the arithmetic you will see that it took 89 years to officially celebrate (nationally) the accomplishments of a great pioneer in professional football. His enshrinement occurred about nineteen years after his death.
Pollard earned about $1500 per game in his heyday, according to a booklet titled African American Pioneers in Pro Football, published by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Pollard was named for Frederick Douglas, the scholar and civil rights leader, and he should have been in classroom history books across the United States. If so, perhaps I would have read about him before my visit to Canton in 2009.
Pollard joined the American Professional Football Association in 1920. It was later named the National Football League.
He was a team member of the Akron (OH) Pros. He helped win the league's first crown, with an 8-0-3.
In 1928, Pollard formed the Chicago Black Hawks which played white teams in the Chicago area.
Pollard is noted as the first African American coach in the NFL.
He was a two-time All-American and reportedly coached as many as four different NFL teams.
One source says:
"Pollard experienced racial discrimination during his career in professional football. He routinely could not eat in the same restaurants or stay in the same hotels as his teammates. Players on opposing teams commonly tried to harm him by piling onto him after a play was over.
"To prevent this from occurring, Pollard usually rolled over onto his back and put his shoes' cleats into the air. Beginning in 1934, the National Football League permitted an unofficial ban on African-American players. Between 1934 and 1946, no black athletes played in the league."
Pollard's life after football was successful. Pollard's father was one of about 17,000 African American barbers in the United States. After a career in sports, Fritz Pollard established businesses and was successful. He died in 1986.
Nineteen years later, he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Fritz Pollard III and another person delivered his Induction Speech in 2005.
We salute the accomplishments of Fritz Pollard. We realize that we stand on the foundation his generation provided.