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Breaking Through the Lines: The Marion Motley Story

$14.99

Marion Motley was recognized as one of the gridiron’s most outstanding players when he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 in his hometown of Canton, Ohio. His legacy off the field, as one of four Black players to reintegrate pro football in 1946, helped blaze a path for Black athletes in the highest echelons of professional sports, including baseball’s Jackie Robinson. Yet, the story of one of the sport’s greatest and most impactful players remains unknown to most Americans.

Black players once thrived during the early days of the NFL. Then a “gentleman’s agreement” among NFL owners in 1933 kept those players out of the highest level of the sport for the next 12 years. That changed in 1946. Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown, a native of Massillon, Ohio, was putting together the inaugural Cleveland Browns roster and signed Black players Motley and Bill Willis to be a part of it. That same year, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode also signed with the Los Angeles Rams.

Years earlier, Brown had coached his high school team against Motley’s. They formed a strong partnership first with a Navy team and then in Cleveland, where Motley twice led his league in rushing yards and helped the Browns win five championships. Motley’s efforts to play a physically brutal game in the face of societal racism and state-sanctioned Jim Crow laws helped reintegrate American sports. Yet half a century after Motley’s enshrinement to the Hall of Fame, the memory of Motley and his accomplishments on and off the field have begun to fade, including in the city where he first made his name.

This book tells Motley’s story of adversity, personal tragedy, and triumphs using archival interviews and new interviews with historians, friends, and descendants.

Description

Marion Motley was recognized as one of the gridiron’s most outstanding players when he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 in his hometown of Canton, Ohio. His legacy off the field, as one of four Black players to reintegrate pro football in 1946, helped blaze a path for Black athletes in the highest echelons of professional sports, including baseball’s Jackie Robinson. Yet, the story of one of the sport’s greatest and most impactful players remains unknown to most Americans.

Black players once thrived during the early days of the NFL. Then a “gentleman’s agreement” among NFL owners in 1933 kept those players out of the highest level of the sport for the next 12 years. That changed in 1946. Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown, a native of Massillon, Ohio, was putting together the inaugural Cleveland Browns roster and signed Black players Motley and Bill Willis to be a part of it. That same year, Kenny Washington and Woody Strode also signed with the Los Angeles Rams.

Years earlier, Brown had coached his high school team against Motley’s. They formed a strong partnership first with a Navy team and then in Cleveland, where Motley twice led his league in rushing yards and helped the Browns win five championships. Motley’s efforts to play a physically brutal game in the face of societal racism and state-sanctioned Jim Crow laws helped reintegrate American sports. Yet half a century after Motley’s enshrinement to the Hall of Fame, the memory of Motley and his accomplishments on and off the field have begun to fade, including in the city where he first made his name.

This book tells Motley’s story of adversity, personal tragedy, and triumphs using archival interviews and new interviews with historians, friends, and descendants.

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Format

Paperback

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