Viola Davis And CBS Honor Kenny Washington For Re-Integrating The NFL

Given how the actual game played out, many of the best moments of Super Bowl LV took place before kick-off. First, H.E.R. delivered an incredible performance of "America, The Beautiful." Then, Jazmine Sullivan and Eric Church put together an outstanding performance of the national anthem. Topping it all of, Amanda Gorman took her talents to Raymond James Stadium to perform "Chorus of Captains." However, one of the most important moments took place before fans even entered the stadium.

During the Super Bowl LV pre-game show on CBS, Kayona Ebony Brown and Viola Davis collaborated to create a segment honoring Kenny Washington, the running back who re-integrated the NFL during the 1940s. James Brown introduced the segment by pointing out the racial disparities that exist four decades after Washington entered the league. Despite the league being primarily made up of Black players, Super Bowl-winning coordinators Eric Bieniemy, Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles, struggle to receive head coaching opportunities.

“When it comes to the hiring of Black head coaches, team and league executives, and Black ownership, frankly, the track record is pitiful," James Brown said.

From there, Viola Davis carries on the segment by honoring Washington's feat in football. In the late 1930s, Washington emerged as a star at UCLA where he earned All-American honors in 1939 and had his number retired upon graduation. Unfortunately, there was no place for him in the NFL upon graduation. After Black players helped build the league for more than a decade, team owners implemented a silent ban of Black players. As a result, Washington served in the military, worked as a police officer, coached at UCLA and played for offshoot professional football leagues in the first few years after he graduated from UCLA. In 1946, Washington finally received an opportunity to play the game he loved at the highest level. Public pressure forced the Los Angeles Rams into signing Washington and he took advantage of his opportunity. In 27 games, Washington scored eight touchdowns and racked up 1057 total yards. His three-year career came to an end in 1948 at Los Angeles Coliseum, where he received a standing ovation from 80,000 cheering fans. However, his number has not been retired by his team or the NFL.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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