They were asked to bar their black players from a major game. Their response was perfect.

In 1951, the University of San Francisco football team was living out a Cinderella season the school had never seen in its history.

This small all-male school’s success was as unlikely as it was unexpected. Finishing the regular season undefeated, the team was poised to make a run at the national championship.

But despite its success on the field, the football team struggled to cover its mounting expenses. Keeping up with teams from bigger schools wasn’t cheap — USF’s football team had tallied a $70,000 deficit that year alone. USF’s ability to save not just its season, but the team’s future, hinged on the type of financial windfall that only a bowl game provides.


Shortly after their last game, the USF team got their bowl game invitation, but with it came a caveat:

In order for USF to play in the Orange Bowl, and collect the game’s $50,000, two players — Ollie Matson and Burl Toler — would be excluded for no other reason than the color of their skin.

The USF 1951 team. Image via San Francisco Foghorn/Flickr.

As one of the few desegregated teams in the top tier of college football, this wasn’t the first time that the 1951 USF team had experienced racism.

"Our first inkling of it came a year before when we went to play in Tulsa," Bob Weibel, a white player on the team, told the NFL. "They wouldn't let Burl and Ollie stay in the team hotel because it was white-only. They had to go across town and stay at the other one."

Racial slurs from opposing teams were also common.

But the players from San Francisco weren’t aware of how embedded racism truly was throughout institutions — like college football — until they got their ultimatum.

"These guys were very naïve," Kristine Setting Clark, author of the 2002 account "Undefeated, Untied, and Uninvited,” told the NFL. “To them, there was no color barrier. They looked at things like what happened in the Orange Bowl and thought, What's wrong with these people?"

Despite the success of Jackie Robinson knocking down the color barrier in baseball, systematic racism in sports was the rule, rather than the exception, in 1951. And the expectation at the time was that USF would need to bend to the will of the bowl organizers to continue their season and save their program.

The ultimatum could have driven the team apart, but instead, it brought the players closer together.

The team’s response didn’t take long. Within minutes after arriving home and learning of the unacceptable stipulation to partake in a bowl game, the response was singular and resounding:

We told them to go to hell," said Bill Henneberry, USF’s backup quarterback that season. "If Ollie and Burl didn't go, none of us were going. We walked out, and that was the end of it."

At the time, the team’s act of solidarity didn’t serve as a springboard for change or progress. In fact, the entire series of events went unreported and undiscussed for decades.

With their unequivocal response, the USF football team had sealed its fate — the program, now out of money, shuttered prior to the next season.

The Orange Bowl announced that it was the team’s “soft schedule” that cost USF a chance to play in the game.

And San Francisco sports journalist Ira Blue, who had been covering the Dons’ season, reported from his sources that the Gator Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Orange Bowl — all steeped in “Southern tradition” — mutually agreed to overlook teams with black players.

It wasn’t until 1990 that the vast majority of sports fans learned the true story.

39 years after the team’s decision was made, Sports Illustrated chronicled USF’s season and the fallout from their trying decision in “Best Team You’ve Never Met,” the first account of the events shared with a broad audience. The players and their courage were finally getting their due, albeit long after media coverage could have effected any real change in the sports world.

That feature proved to be the first of many later celebrations of the team’s quiet integrity in the face of grave consequences.

In 2006, the surviving team members were flown out by the Emerald Bowl so they could be honored at halftime. Two years later, Fiesta Bowl officials extended the same invitation.

Both the NFL and ESPN raced to turn the Dons’ story into a film. ESPN won, putting out “The ‘51 Dons” in 2014.

Many USF players from the 1951 team didn’t live long enough to enjoy the belated honors bestowed upon the team, but their mark on sports history remains nonetheless.

Their story conjures the very definition of integrity: doing what’s right regardless of the consequences. At the time, few would have faulted the team for accepting the conditions and taking the bowl bid. But the 1951 San Francisco Dons football players made their choice — because to them, the alternative was worse than the end of their football team.

“When you look back on it, I guess you could say we really were a team that was ahead of our time," said USF’s Henneberry in an NFL interview.

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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