Pioneer

Kenny Washington as a member of the 1946 Los Angeles Rams wearing his familiar #13

After his collegiate career ended Kenny was denied the opportunity to play in the N.F.L. because of his race.  Instead he played several seasons of minor league professional football on the West Coast and was always one of the premiere players on the field. While with the Hollywood Bears of the Pacific Coast League, Kenny was a featured attendance draw because of his popularity with games sometimes billed as “Kenny Washington and The Hollywood Bears”.

His playing career was temporarily suspended with the onset of WWII while Kenny served his country in the military as a type of sports ambassador regularly visiting with troops and playing in exhibition games.

Upon returning to professional sports, Kenny became a groundbreaking pioneer in professional football as the first African-American to sign a contract in the modern-day N.F.L. with the newly relocated Los Angeles Rams. With the Rams move to Los Angeles from Cleveland in 1946, the Coliseum Commission (under pressure from African-American sports writers) required that the team be integrated before a lease for the stadium could be signed. With Uncle Rocky acting as his manager, Kenny signed a contract with the Rams on March 21, 1946 – thus breaking the color barrier in football a year before Jackie Robinson did the same in baseball.  A short time later his former UCLA teammate and friend Woody Strode would do the same and the two played alongside one another once again as Los Angeles Rams.

But the years of football upon his body limited his career with the Rams to 3 years before his retirement in 1948 on a day proclaimed “Kenny Washington Day” by the Los Angeles Mayor and City Council. Kenny’s brief career with the Rams is highlighted by 859 career yards, 8 touchdowns and 7.4 yards per carry – respectable numbers for any pro football player of the era. In 1947, his electrifying run of 92 years from scrimmage still stands as one of the longest by a Ram in team history. And while he was elected to the National Football Hall of Fame in 1956, he has still not been recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio for his contributions towards the groundbreaking efforts of integrating the modern N.F.L.