BYU journalism students spent this past spring and summer working on a documentary to tell the story of the Black 14, the University of Wyoming football players who were kicked off their team in October 1969. The documentary will premiere Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.
The night before a football game against BYU, 14 University of Wyoming football players were kicked off the team for wanting to protest against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ policy on priesthood and race at the time.
Students from BYU’s journalism program traveled to 11 states in 10 days and interviewed four of the 14 football players to produce a documentary on their story of reconciliation with the University of Wyoming and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I decided to get involved with the Black 14 project because I was excited about telling this story,” BYU journalism student Shyler Johnson said. “This story isn’t about race anymore, and while the original story about the Black 14 being excused from the team was about race, the story we told was about how the Black 14 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are working together to help those suffering from food insecurity.”
Along with Johnson, BYU journalism students Carly Wasserlein, Caroline Clark, Elisabeth Ahlstrom and Abigail Gunderson participated in the project.
“For me, as a journalist and as a professional, I learned and grew so much from working on this documentary, but then also as a person and as a Christian,” Wasserlein said. “It was really wonderful to be part of the Black 14 because it encapsulates the very Christian idea of forgiveness and wonderful examples of service and gratitude.”
The students traveled to different places in the U.S. such as Wyoming, Denver, New York and Washington D.C. along with The Daily Universe professional staff members Alan Neves and Melissa Gibbs.
“Watching two professionals create a documentary was invaluable for my experience as a journalist,” Wasserlein said. “Being able to be mentored by Alan and Melissa as we created this high level piece taught me so much more than anything else could have.”
The students involved in the project shared their experiences while working on the documentary and getting to know the story of the members of the Black 14 more in depth.
“I learned a lot while working on the project but one of the biggest things was how blessed I am to have grown up with food,” Johnson said. “This project allowed us to step into food banks and see them in action and see the people they were serving.”
Another one of the things that touched the students was learning about the individual stories and how the members of the Black 14 turned an unjust experience into a service opportunity.
“I got to know them in such a deep level,” Gunderson said. “No matter who was involved in this story, they all have been so deeply touched and moved by the story of the Black 14.”
Office of Belonging Vice President Carl Hernandez said the documentary told a beautiful and inspiring reconciliation story between the Church and the Black 14.
“Their experience was so challenging but they were able to move forward and realize that that didn’t define them as people — that they’re leaving this legacy behind of healing and service,” Hernandez said. “They were willing to move forward and to forgive and to engage and be part of something that’s bigger than themselves, which is serving others.”
Clark said going to the food banks and learning first-hand about the work the members of the Black 14 and the Church have put into serving others deeply impressed her.
“It was really amazing to see how they’ve turned that injustice and that hatred towards them into something that is really benefitting and helping other people in so many ways,” Clark said. “They turned this into something so good and giving back to the community — helping people who don’t have food, for those who are food insecure.”
When asking the journalism students involved in the project why learning about the Black 14 would be beneficial to the BYU community, they said it would be because it is a story focused on loving others and being anti-racist.
“For people of my generation, it seems like the Civil Rights movement happened so long ago, but it hasn’t really been that long,” Ahlstrom said. “Even if I’m not being racist, it’s important to be anti-racist and it’s important to be a voice in the world and we should really try to love everyone,” Ahlstrom said.
Johnson said the BYU community would benefit from hearing the story because it is a story about forgiveness and helping others.
Echoing Johnson’s thoughts, Gunderson explained she learned so much about the importance of serving others.
“The only way we can move forward together is by serving others,” Gunderson said. “The one thing that stood out to me while being involved in this project was how healing and unifying service was.”
The Black 14 documentary will be premiering on Friday, Sept. 23 at the Wilkinson Student Center Varsity Theater at 7 p.m. You can watch the trailer here.
The September 2022 issue of The Daily Universe Magazine cover story is about the Black 14 and their work with the Church.
Learn more about the Black 14:
- Meet the Black 14.
- Learn how the Black 14 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started working together.
- Find out how the Black 14 and the Church are combating food insecurity.
- Read a Q&A with Tracey Owens Patton, a professor at The University of Wyoming who has played an instrumental role in giving a voice to the Black 14.