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A mural in a downtown Laramie, Wyoming, alley honors the Black 14 in a photo taken on Sept. 11, 2019.
A mural in a downtown Laramie, Wyoming, alley honors the Black 14 in a photo taken on Sept. 11, 2019. The Black 14 were players dismissed from the University of Wyoming football team in 1969 for seeking to protest racism by wearing black armbands in a game against Brigham Young University. The players and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have teamed up to address hunger in hometowns of the Black 14.
Mead Gruver, Associated Press

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How the Black 14 and church are (still) putting the giving into Thanksgiving

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Last year, I reported the backstory of how the surprising partnership between the Black 14 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints moved mountains of food across the United States to those in need at Thanksgiving.

The two groups were at it again this past week.

The Black 14 are the 14 football players at the University of Wyoming who were kicked off the team the day before their 1969 game with BYU for approaching their coach about whether they could wear black armbands during the game to silently protest a since-removed church policy against Blacks holding the priesthood.

Last year, a former BYU quarterback, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of the Seventy, was part of helping arrange 180 tons of food donations from the church to nine cities across the country in the names of the Black 14.

“That wound that was pretty significant 51 years ago has healed, and what we’re doing is pretty special,” wide receiver John Griffin said.

Last week, the church and the Black 14 teamed up again. About 40,000 pounds of food from the church’s Bishops’ Storehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, were delivered to the Cathedral Home for Children and the University of Wyoming Food Share Pantry, reported Wyoming News Now.

Griffin was on hand for the delivery.

“We have turned a tragedy into philanthropy, and that is what we are going to ride the rest of our lives, because it is important to us,” he said.

Meanwhile, news outlets around the country are doing stories on the church’s Giving Machines, the popular vending machines it has set up in 10 American cities. Instead of buying a soda pop or candy bar, these vending machines accept charitable donations for items from eyeglasses to feeding a hungry person for a month. Or as one headline put it, the vending machines become giving machines “where people can donate chickens, blankets, boots or basketballs.”

Stories have been published from New York to California and Hawaii.

Both of those efforts to give also serve as a reminder of last year’s video message of hope, healing and unity issued by President Russell M. Nelson. He invited people to share gratitude on social media with the hashtag #GiveThanks.

As the Church News podcast noted this week, that hashtag became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter and reached No. 2 worldwide.

As American Latter-day Saints celebrate a long holiday weekend, I give thanks for you readers and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

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