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DMACC Focuses on Football, Race for Black History Month

John G. "Jack" Trice, center, was the first African-American athlete for Iowa State College during a time when integration was often met with racial discrimination. (Photo courtesy ISU Special Collections)
John G. "Jack" Trice, center, was the first African-American athlete for Iowa State College during a time when integration was often met with racial discrimination. (Photo courtesy ISU Special Collections)
January 28, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa – Football has always been a violent game, but when three African-American men were severely injured while playing for Iowa schools in the first half of the 20th century, racism entered the debate.

Talent on the gridiron combined with race is the focus of a Tuesday presentation at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC).

History Professor Matthew Walsh says Jack Trice, who played for what was then Iowa State College, died in 1923, a few days after a violent game against the University of Minnesota in which Trice was trampled by the opposing players.

"They were all severely injured on the football field, and it's kind-of a debate as to whether or not it was because of their talent and, 'Oh well, football was just a difficult game,' or was this also something that was tied to race?" he states.

The incidents eventually resulted in a number of commemorations, including Iowa State naming its stadium for Trice in 1987, the only Division I stadium or arena named after an African-American.

Tuesday's talk at DMACC's Des Moines campus is by Jaime Schultz, a Penn State associate professor of kinesiology.

Walsh maintains what happened during the early days of football in Iowa is worth remembering in light of recent protests of the national anthem at NFL games, racist chants resurfacing at basketball games and the overall topic of race in America.

"Students need to understand that these are issues and if they see that, to speak out, to not let these things unfold and to not join in that mob mentality,” Walsh stresses. “And certainly, taunts are expected during sporting events but it should never get into racial territory."

Walsh adds when discrimination was still widespread, the violence against University of Iowa player Ozzie Simmons resulted in the now-famous Floyd of Rosedale trophy played for annually by the Iowa Hawkeyes and Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The trophy was initiated by the governors of both states to quell tensions and end violence on the field.

Black History Month is celebrated in the U.S. in February.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA