Lauren Bosco | Posted: 21 Sep 2022 | Updated: 24 Sep 2022

BYU Athletics hosts members of the Black 14, debuts documentary produced by BYU School of Communications

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Mel Hamilton and John Griffin smile during the question and answer portion of a documentary screening at BYU
Mel Hamilton and John Griffin answer questions in front of a crowd of student-athletes and staff at BYU John Griffin stands smiling with with Gifford Nielsen Mel Hamilton speaks with BYU student-athletes Mel Hamilton speaks at an event with the BYU Office of Belonging John Griffin speaks at an event with the BYU Office of Belonging The crowd for the public premiere of the Black 14 documentary in BYU's Varsity Theater Mel Hamilton speaks on stage with Zyon Smiley and John Griffin at the premiere of the Black 14 documentary at BYU Elder Gifford Nielsen leans over smiling with Mel Hamilton and John Griffin

PROVO, Utah — BYU Athletics hosted a premiere private screening of “The Black 14: Healing Hearts and Feeding Souls” in front of coaches, staff, administration, families and special guests on Wednesday evening in the Richards Building. Black 14 members Mel Hamilton and John Griffin were in attendance, along with their wives Carey and Gilda.

The documentary was then presented in a public viewing to a packed Varsity Theater on campus on Friday.

"After seeing this documentary, I hope people will look at my story and see how Mel Hamilton ended up helping people after a tragedy in his life and talking about love," Hamilton said. "I grew up and talked to the Lord and met people who talked to the Lord, and He helped ease the condition in some little small way. I want people to think that I added to my community. That is what I hope my legacy is."

The documentary, produced by students in BYU’s School of Communications, tells the story of the Black 14 and its reconciliation with both the University of Wyoming and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as well as the extent of service that has taken place since. The heart of the film showcases the importance of coming together to build bridges of understanding.

The University of Wyoming’s Black 14 are former football players who approached their coach in 1969 to tell him they were interested in protesting a race-based Church policy before they were scheduled to play BYU. After seeking permission from their coach to wear black arm bands as a form of non-violent protest, all 14 members were immediately kicked off the team, jeopardizing their educations and football careers.

"We were not going to let that event define the rest of our lives," Griffin said. "I don't let a lot of things define my life, but it took me years to share my story. I was angry for 10 years. What we decided to do, and when Mel reached out to Gifford Nielson, was develop a partnership that dealt with giving back food to those who are in need. That relationship has grown into something pretty darn special. If you look at what happened to us in 1969, you could say now that it was a tragedy turned into philanthropy. That's in essence what we've done, and we aren't done yet."

In 2020, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints partnered with the Black 14 to deliver over 180 tons of food across eight states near the homes of members of the Black 14.

"To think that we all came back together is a miraculous story," said Gifford Nielsen, general authority seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and former BYU quarterback. "Full cooperation from everyone has brought this story to fruition."

Following the documentary premieres and a Q&A session, Hamilton and Griffin received a standing ovation from the audience. 

Hamilton and Griffin will be on campus through Saturday’s football game against the University of Wyoming. Hamilton and Griffin have participated in various discussions and class presentations throughout campus and with BYU Athletics student-athletes and staff.

On Saturday, Hamilton and Griffin will be honored on the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium, before the game, as the Y Lighters.

Plans to honor the Black 14 at the game and host them on campus have been in the works since the summer, in conjunction with the creation of the documentary.

“It’s pretty powerful to say, we can get a lot done for our communities to help them but also help heal the wounds that have been felt in the past as we do service today," said Kevin J Worthen, BYU president. "That’s a model of saying, let’s band together and work on something. Now that, in my mind, is one of the more powerful ways of dealing with the past, by making the present and future better, coming together to share those common goals that we can have and then I think you find more and more commonalities as you do that.”

To learn more about the Black 14, go to their website black14.net.

See more coverage of the Black 14's visit to BYU from the following outlets:

Deseret News
Daily Universe
Salt Lake Tribune
KSL.com
KSL TV
ESPN.com