PROVO (ABC4) – It’s a story you may not know about, but it’s one of turning tragedy to philanthropy.

A group of former Wyoming football players were kicked off the team over 50 years ago for wanting to protest a policy during that time in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Two of those players were honored at Lavell Edwards Stadium before Saturday’s game.

ABC4 spoke with one of those members of the team, John Griffin, and he says the partnership the group has been able to build is a dream, and that he’s happy to see it come to fruition.

It’s a story many may not know. A group of black football players on the 1969 Wyoming football team, who along with the Black student alliance, wanted to protest against a policy at the time that blacks weren’t allowed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ priesthood.

Griffin recalls that time, saying, “In 1969, it was the end of a decade of turmoil, social injustice and what happened to us, it was the end of an era.”

Their coach at the time did not support the group’s desire to protest and they were kicked off the team.
Griffin says in a statement that he admits spending 10 years upset about what happened, but has since decided to turn that negative into a positive. “It’s ancient history now, and what we’re doing now is leading with our hearts,” says Griffin.

Fast forward over five decades, and the members of the ‘Black 14’ have been able to form a partnership with the Church and the athletics department at BYU.

Griffin describes it as “putting all of our collective minds together and all our collective hearts together and we’re doing something important and giving back to those who need it.”

Giving back in a big way, the group has delivered nearly 800 thousand pounds of food to various parts of the country near homes of the ‘Black 14’ members.

Both John Griffin and Mel Hamilton have been on the BYU campus most of the week participating in presentations and meeting with students.

BYU journalism students took on a project of producing a documentary based on the Black 14’s story and how they’ve been able to overcome racial barriers and build a relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Griffin says, “They put together this incredible story about what was happening in 1969 and what’s happening today.”

With that in mind, Griffin shares an important message with today’s youth that also resonated during the 1960’s, saying, “Never be defined by an incident, you can overcome that.”

Griffin says the partnership started as a way to help families dealing with food insecurity and has grown into something pretty special.

The student produced documentary is available to watch online here.