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Someone Knocked On The NFL Door; Others Answered The Door

Honor Warren Wells TheTorch@dbintayaelSenior Writer IIJune 13, 2009

Someone has to knock on the door of opportunity in the NFL and someone has to open it.

Daniel F. Reeves opened a door of opportunity for Kenny Washington. Washington became the first African American to play pro football during the post World War II era.

The NFL door of opportunity had been opened once before, during a time before the Great Depression. The pressures and instability of the Depression drove some men backward to self-serving and prejudicial behaviors. 

Therefore, the NFL had to be re-integrated after an era of intolerance between 1934 and 1946. 

Dan Reeves was a great man with a great vision. Washington, born in 1918, had the following experiences according to one source:

"Washington was also passed over by the NFL, which had not had an African-American player since 1933.

"Instead, he became the biggest star and most popular player in two minor professional leagues on the West Coast, playing for the Hollywood Bears of the Pacific Coast Pro Football League in 1940, 1941, and 1945 and for the San Francisco Clippers of the American Football League in 1944. (In 1942–43 Washington toured military bases with the United Service Organizations, as a knee injury kept him out of active service.)

"Finally, in 1946, under a threat that the team would lose its lease on the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Los Angeles Rams signed Washington (along with Woody Strode, to be his roommate), ending the 12-year ban on black players in the NFL. By this time Washington had suffered several knee injuries, and, after three modest seasons with the Rams, he retired in 1948.

"In 1956 Washington was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, and his number 13 jersey was the first to be retired at UCLA."

Kenny Washington died in 1971.

In 1972 the Pro Football Hall of Fame established the Daniel F. Reeves Pioneer Award.  Reeves was the former owner of the Los Angeles Rams.

The recipients of the Reeves Award are:

Fred Gehrke

Arch Ward

John Facenda

David Boss

George Toma

City of Pottsville, Pennsylvania

Steve Sabol

This B/R article recognizes the man who knocked on the door, Kenny Washington, and the man who answered and opened the NFL door, Daniel F. Reeves.

Note:  More research is needed to gather primary data on the attitudes and/or behaviors of the principals mentioned in this article.  Thank you.

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