Kenny Washington, first African American to sign contract with the NFL
Kenny Washington, a UCLA graduate, was the first African American to sign a contract with the NFL. He is important in civil rights history because he paved the way for other African Americans in sports. Although he was a key person in sports civil rights, he does not yet have a monument or statue that can be visited. A trophy that was presented to Washington during a retirement ceremony is the only piece of history that can be seen to commemorate his life.
Backstory and Context
Kenny Washington, born August 31, 1918, a UCLA graduate, played for the Los Angeles Rams. He was the first African American to sign an NFL contract. Washington had an impressive background in the UCLA and was a promising professional player for any NFL team. As an African American, Washington had a hard time finding a professional team to take him after his graduation from UCLA. Finally, ending a 12 year ban on African American players in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams signed him on.
In 1946 the NFL and the Los Angeles Rams were forced to add African American players to their teams and lift the ban on African American players. The Rams immediately signed Washington and Woody Strode. Washington retired only two years later, ending his short career in professional football, but leaving his mark on history and civil rights. He helped pave the way for other African Americans to enter into the NFL.
Unfortunately, no statue or monument is available to remember Washington as of yet, although some, like the Kenny Washington Stadium Foundation, are avidly trying to find the funds to build such statue. However, Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles, California, where Washington was star runningback, a trophy is held that was presented to Washington during a retirement ceremony. This can be seen at Lincoln High School upon request.