Rams launch movie on trailblazing RB Kenny Washington, who reintegrated NFL

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Kenny Washington starred on the soccer area greater than 75 years in the past at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. On Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Rams shared his life story within the intimate setting of the refurbished Miracle Theatre in downtown Inglewood, a stone’s throw from the crew’s new-era dwelling at SoFi Stadium.

Most persons are acquainted with the story of Jackie Robinson — how in 1947 he overcame overt racism to interrupt the colour barrier in changing into the primary Black participant to compete in Major League Baseball within the trendy period.

But few know the journey of Robinson’s baseball and soccer teammate at UCLA. Washington completed the identical factor in skilled soccer a yr earlier, changing into the primary Black participant to reintegrate the NFL after a 12-year ban on Black gamers. 

Years earlier, Washington, Robinson and Woody Strode, identified nationally because the “Gold Dust Gang,” starred within the backfield for the Bruins. In 1939, Washington grew to become the primary UCLA participant named an All-American. 

To deliver consideration to Washington’s accomplishments, the Rams partnered with black-owned manufacturing firm The BLK Originals to create “Kingfish: The Story of Kenny Washington,” a 20-minute movie chronicling the proficient runner’s profession. The Rams premiered the movie to staff and different invited dignitaries on the comfortable theater on Market Street. 

“This film would not have been possible without this organization using Kenny’s legacy to help inspire today’s community,” mentioned Rams COO Kevin Demoff. “Because this story from 77 years ago is as relevant as ever today. When we think about breaking barriers, creating opportunities, making change and perseverance in the face of adversity in the Los Angeles community — all of that which Kenny did — that all stands true for what we’re talking about right now.” 

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The movie consists of former Rams gamers Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson plus present L.A. defensive coordinator Raheem Morris all discussing the affect Washington has had on their lives.

“Sometimes when telling the story, the ugly truth needs to come out,” Jackson mentioned within the movie. “And because that truth is so distasteful at times, you just try not to tell the story at all. As young people continue to explore the history of the game and why we’re able to do what we do, it’s not because we showed up one day and put on cleats.  

“It’s as a result of there was somebody who stood within the hole. And Kenny Washington stood in that hole for lots of Black athletes.”

Washington died in 1971. Attending the premiere was his granddaughter, Kysa Washington, who served as part of a panel to discuss the film after the viewing. 

“We’re humbled, proud and now the brand new phrase is happy,” Washington said. “Excited that the remainder of the world will get to know the knowledge that we had been raised with. In our family, we had a number of this data, however a number of it wasn’t available to everybody else.” 

On March 21, 1946, 27-year-old Kenny Washington signed a contract with the Rams after playing six years for the Hollywood Bears of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League, for which he was the highest-paid player.

When the Cleveland Rams relocated to Los Angeles to play in the Memorial Coliseum in 1945, the Black community pressured the team to integrate because public funding was used to build the stadium. 

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Washington and former UCLA teammate Strode joined the Rams, while Marion Motley and Bill Willis signed with the Cleveland Browns. Dubbed “The Forgotten Four,” these players were honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year for their contributions, receiving the Hall’s Ralph Hay Award. 

In 2021, writer Bob Glauber partnered with former NFL receiver and Los Angeles native Keyshawn Johnson to publish “The Forgotten First,” a guide detailing the gamers’ reintegration of the league within the Forties.

“It’s an vital story to inform,” said Glauber, who also served on a panel after the showing of the film. “And it must be advised, once more, repeatedly.”

Johnathan Franklin, a former football standout at UCLA now serving as the Rams’ director of social justice and football development, will be tasked with getting the word out about the film. Franklin said the Rams plan on having a screening event digitally available to all 32 NFL teams at the end of the month. 

It will also be seen freed from cost on YouTube.

“We wish to inform the world who Kenny is,” Franklin said. “He’s going to be a hero not simply in Los Angeles, however all through the whole United States.” 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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