Senate marks 60th anniversary of NFL's integration

WASHINGTON -- The Senate marked the 60th anniversary of pro football's permanent integration with a resolution Tuesday that will be part of the NFL's commemoration at its Hall of Fame Game next month.

In 1946, a year before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's race barrier, Bill Willis and Marion Motley joined the Cleveland Browns of the All-American Football Conference and Kenny Washington and Woody Strode played for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League. The NFL hadn't had black players since 1932.

The Rams had been Cleveland's NFL team until 1946, when they moved to Los Angeles. When the Browns joined the NFL in 1950, Hall of Famers Willis and Motley led Cleveland to the first of its four NFL titles in the 1950s.

The Senate resolution was sponsored by Ohio's two senators and Sen. George Allen, R-Va., whose father, George Allen, was a Hall of Fame coach. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, will present the resolution at halftime of the NFL's Aug. 6 exhibition game in Canton, Ohio, to Willis, the lone survivor of the quartet of players who broke the barrier for good.

"The integration of major professional sports dealt a blow to segregation across the country, causing other racial barriers to fall," said Voinovich, a former mayor of Cleveland. "The players deserve to be recognized not only for their outstanding contributions on the field but for the vital roles they played in history."