Patriots

How Belichick will honor NFL's first Black coach in Week 1

Patriots

Bill Belichick's appreciation of history will be on full display Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots head coach will wear a visor bearing the name of Fritz Pollard, the NFL's first Black head coach, on the sideline for New England's Week 1 matchup with the Miami Dolphins.

Pollard made history in 1921 when he was named player-coach of the Akron Pros of the American Professional Football Association, which later became the NFL.

The Chicago native also was the first Black football player at Brown University before turning pro and was one of just two Black players in the AFPA in 1920, earning All-Pro honors as a quarterback and running back during his first pro season.

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Pollard faced significant racism and discrimination throughout his football career that included receiving death threats while at Brown.

But Pollard also was a trailblazer in the face of hate, founding his own team, the Brown Bombers, in the 1930s in an attempt to reintegrate the NFL, which had reverted back to zero Black players after Pollard left in the late 1920s.

The Bombers folded in 1938, but the NFL reintegrated in 1946 thanks in large part to Pollard's efforts.

It's unclear if the Patriots will make a statement about racial inequality as a team in Sunday's season opener -- the Dolphins plan to remain in the locker room for both anthems -- but we know Belichick will make a symbolic nod to one of the NFL's most important Black figures.