Before The League

The story of the people and towns that made pro football America's biggest sport.

The 6-part documentary story of the people and towns that made pro football America's biggest sport.

“Before the League” examines how small towns like Canton and Massillon, Ohio were the blueprint for fielding early pro teams as well as fostering healthy rivalries. As precursors to the NFL, teams like the Akron Pros, Dayton Triangles, Portsmouth Spartans, Ironton Tanks, Shelby Blues, Oorang Indians, Rochester Jeffersons, Buffalo All-Americans, Milwaukee Badgers and Columbus Panhandles laid the groundwork for the successes of today’s big city teams.

9 Ways African Americans Integrated Professional Football Before the NFL

Now, go impress some buddies, win some bets, and don't miss "Before the League", a two-night event on November 17 and 18 on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. Click here for show times.  

1. One of the first African American professional football players was Charles Follis. Dubbed “The Black Cyclone”, Follis played for the Shelby Blues (IN SHELBY, Ohio).

 Source: Wikipedia    Public Domain

Source: Wikipedia    Public Domain

2. Fritz Pollard was the first African American Head Coach of a pro football team, THE AKRON PROS.

 Source: Time Warner Cable SportsChannel

Source: Time Warner Cable SportsChannel

3. Between 1920 and 1933, there were a total of 13 black football players in the National Football League.

 Source: Shelby County Historical Society

Source: Shelby County Historical Society

4. African American Players like those on the Akron Pros risked their safety traveling to small towns where their acceptance on the team was not ensured.

 Source: Wikipedia    Public Domain

Source: Wikipedia    Public Domain

5. Players of color would often have travel, stay, and dress separately from the rest of their team.

6. African American players were often singled out by players on the opposing teams leading to taunts, harder hits, and potential pile-ons.

 Source: Time Warner Cable SportsChannel    Dramatization Footage

Source: Time Warner Cable SportsChannel    Dramatization Footage

7. An unwritten ban between team owners and investors prohibited blacks from playing in the League from 1933 until after World War 2 in 1946.

8. Fritz Pollard was finally accepted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, posthumously in 2005.

9. Art Shell was the second African American coach in the NLF in 1969, following Fritz Pollard in the 1920s.


© 2015 Before The League, LLC.