As part of the league’s ongoing effort to speak out against racism, NFL players are permitted to put a name on their helmets, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined in that effort. Belichick chose Fritz Pollard, the NFL trailblazer who was the league’s first black coach, and put Pollard’s name on his visor.
Belichick, an NFL history aficionado, spoke about Pollard’s influence after the game.
“I’ll start with just how honored I am to have worn the patch today for Fritz Pollard,” Belichick said at the opening of his post-game press conference. “The criteria that they talked about was somebody who had overcome discrimination and racism and certainly Fritz Pollard fits into that category. So what he did, the courage that he showed as a player in the NFL and then later as a player/coach, and then later as – when he left the NFL and then after the NFL banned all black players in I think it was 1934, he continued to work with professional football teams, all-black teams and have them compete and they did very well. They just weren’t in the National Football League. So, really honored to have worn this today and I appreciate the opportunity to recognize Fritz Pollard for all he’s done and what now continues as an award that’s given out and recognition that’s given out for people that have done things along the lines of what he represented and what he worked so hard for.”
Pollard played in the NFL’s very first season as a member of the Akron Pros in 1920, and he was Akron’s coach in 1921. Pollard remained the only black coach in NFL history until the Raiders hired Art Shell in 1989. Pollard died in 1986 at the age of 92, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.