When most people talk about the fall of the color barrier in professional sports, they point to Jackie Robinson, who became the first Black man to play in baseball’s major league when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1947.
What many people don’t know is the untold story of four football players — Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley and Bill Willis — who became the first Black players in the NFL one year before Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. While Kenny Washington and Woody Strode played for the Los Angeles Rams, Marion Motley and Bill Willis broke in with the Cleveland Browns.
Producing partners Ross Greenburg and Wesley Smith wanted to make sure that these four heroes no longer went unsung, and they did so with their new documentary Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football, which tells the story of the foursome through the eyes of friends, family members, sportswriters and historians.
Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb was tapped by Smith and Greenburg to be a creative consultant for the film, which premieres Tuesday, September 23 on Epix. McNabb spoke to BET.com about why these four pioneers should be recognized and celebrated.
"The 'Forgotten' aspect of it is because not a lot of people are aware of how [integration in professional sports] all started,” noted McNabb. “We can sit back and talk about how the Washington Redskins were the last team to integrate and we can talk about where we are now but there are years in between that people really need to know about. The importance of this movie will be its ability to touch lives, not just African-Americans but all races, because these men were an important part of history that people need to know about."
The six-time Pro Bowler will also be participating in an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit on September 22 to host a discussion about the film.
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(Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)