A Brief History of the Black Quarterback

An Economist’s View

David J. Berri and Martin B. Schmidt

The story of integration in professional football followed a somewhat different path from what can be observed in baseball and basketball. The story started in 1904 when the Shelby Athletic Club signed Charles W. Follis, the first known black professional football player. Across the next three decades, professional football teams employed 16 additional black players. After the 1933 season, though, the National Football League (NFL) adopted a de facto color barrier.

In 1946, this barrier was removed when the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL signed both Kenny Washington and Woody Strode. At the same time, the Cleveland Browns of the All-American Football ...

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