They were asked to bar their black players from a major game. Their response was perfect.
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DICK'S Sporting Goods

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.

Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

via 1POCNews / Twitter

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This year, we've all experienced a little more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for youth facing homelessness, like Megan and Lionel. Enter Covenant House, an international organization that helps transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is Delivering Smiles this holiday season by donating essential items and fulfilling AmazonSmile Charity Lists for organizations, like Covenant House, that have been impacted this year more than ever. Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a charity of your choice or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

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