I Know This Is Late. Be Quiet And Read.

My plan was to post this the day I found it, but as none of us get paid for the things we post on DeadSplinter, I needed to do Other Things first, and then it just got away from me. But, the good news is that it has no bearing on the results of last night’s game so I don’t really feel that badly about it.

Anyway, BBC did a nice little profile on the man who is the namesake of the Vince Lombardi Trophy (FYI, CBS Sunday Morning did an interesting piece on Tiffany and Co, who make the trophy and a bunch of other ones). What makes this profile different from pretty much all the others is that the writer makes Lombardi’s approach to equality the centerpiece rather than simply a nice aside.

Lombardi came to Green Bay to coach a team that was A) terrible and B) completely loaded with Caucasian players. By the end of his time at Green Bay, roughly a third of the roster were black players.

He forced changes in the town as well, telling local business owners they wouldn’t get one damned dime from anyone in the Packers organization if they excluded the black players. He had the juice to do it, and the authority within the organization to make sure nobody cheated on that promise. He forced housing integration, which was much tougher because it meant convincing private citizens not to be a bunch of racist assholes, but he made it happen.

His demands went beyond Green Bay and into Jim Crow Land, forcing teams in the South to make sure everyone from the Packer squad got put up in the same hotel. He took no shit when it came to locker room acceptance of gay players (let’s be clear that nobody on the team was openly gay at the time, but he wouldn’t allow the typical bullshit and innuendo from the straight players). That’s no small thing when just being gay was essentially a crime at that time in this country.

The piece only speculates as to Lombardi’s motives at the time, but suggests that personal experience had a lot to do with it as an Italian growing up in early 20th Century Brooklyn. “What”, you say, “could a white guy have to worry about in regard to prejudice and discrimination?” Remember, there was a time in this country when heritage was just as big a target of discrimination as skin color, and there were plenty of people who hated Italians, Irish and Germans during that period, and Lombardi watched how his father wound up on the receiving end of that. His brother was gay, so he had another personal connection to how the world can trample upon those seen as The Other. Lombardi was, contrary to all appearances, quite liberal for his time. He’d probably be considered a DINO today, but then again Barry Goldwater could probably run as a Democrat in 2020 if it wasn’t for the whole Being Dead thing.

Anyway, it’s a good read. Check it out.

https://www.bbc.com/sport/american-football/51281357

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I am not a sportsperson, so I didn’t know who Lombardi was, but I really appreciate learning about him. I don’t really care to watch sports or what happens to the teams or in the games, but I am generally interested in it as a cultural institution.

    He would probably be a DINO but also I think it’s OK that people who considered letting black people be part of society an act of revolution be considered old fashioned haha.

  2. Nice.

    I never want to link a certain website named after a rain forest so I’ll link a wiki to his biography from David Maraniss. I can’t recommend it enough.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Pride_Still_Mattered

    This was the book that I found out about his brother and how much he liked to drink. We’ll not sure if he liked it or not but he did a lot of it. He was a Kennedy supporter and spoke in support of Robert too (the more progressive of the brothers).

    “Richard Nixon thought so highly of Lombardi that he once mentioned him as a possible running mate. But it turned out Lombardi was a Kennedy Democrat. He supported both John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Bobby in 1968, and also endorsed Wisconsin’s liberal senator, Gaylord Nelson.”

    I though he supported Ali too but couldn’t find anything on it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vince_Lombardi#Politics

  3. I didn’t know a ton about this either, thanks for the read.

    It’s instructive that the two greatest coaches of that era — Lombardi and Red Auerbach in the NBA — found success by treating black players like human beings and trying to build a team with them and around them instead of treating them like problems.

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