The Patriots’ Rommie Loudd Could’ve Been a Civil Rights Hero
Rommie Loudd might not be a household name in football, but he was almost one of the most influential figures in its history. Sure, he had a brief three-year career with both the LA Chargers and the Boston Patriots, but this wasn’t what made him special. After hanging up his cleats, Loudd wanted to secure America’s first black ownership group. Had he not gotten arrested around that same time, he might’ve succeeded, too.
Who is Rommie Loudd?
The tight end played for UCLA’s legendary football team from 1953-55. Although Loudd wasn’t a standout star like modern players. But he was good enough to get drafted in the 26th round of the 1956 draft. However, doubting his ability to get on the field, Loudd signed with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.
Loudd spent one year with the Lions before returning to his home country to pursue his AFL dreams leading up to its merger with the NFL. On paper, his career was nothing memorable. He played linebacker for the LA Chargers after getting cut from the Bears before ever stepping foot on the field. There, Loudd started seven of 14 games and earned three interceptions in the process.
However, after just one year with the Chargers, Loudd moved to Boston, where he spent two years with the Patriots. During his first season, he started every game and had a single interception. The next year, however, he came off the bench for only occasional snaps. After that, his American Football career ended. Loudd worked in the defunct ACFL for three years before starting a new chapter of his career.
Rommie Loudd attempts history
Loudd did make some history right when the Civil Rights era began. The Patriots brought him back as an assistant coach in 1966, details the New York Times. And Loudd became the first black assistant in the AFL’s history. He began his rise in the ranks and was on the way to establishing real power in football.
After succeeding as a linebackers’ coach, Loudd climbed the ladder until he got a job in the team’s front office. He later went on to head the Florida Blazers in a short-lived league called the WFL. However, had it not been for a single mishap in the early ’70s, Loudd may have been to football what guys like Jackie Robinson and Bill Russell were to their sports.
Loudd swings for the fences
In the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s shooting in Memphis, reports Slate, Loudd wanted to show that the city of Memphis was not just the place where the Civil Rights leader died, but a rich cultural haven that many black people called home. To capitalize on this, he helped put together a black investment group for a potential NFL team called the Memphis Kings.
The ownership group had big names like Sammy Davis Jr. and Sidney Poitier behind it, and it planned on staffing itself with black NFL veterans like Jim Brown. Loudd initially played coy when it came to the subject, but after meeting with the NFL’s commissioner about it, he opened up about his desires.
“Blacks have broken all kinds of barriers in sports. We’ve proven we can do the job in almost every area. This is the last step,” Loudd told the Boston Globe.
However, in 1975, the ownership group wasn’t too far from becoming a reality. Loudd was implicated in a drug scheme that also included shady monetary moves while he was with the Blazers. The dreams of an all-black ownership group were killed, and to this day, there hasn’t been an all-black group in any major American professional sport. Loudd maintained that he was set up, and the Sentinel Star, which broke the story, admitted that they might have jumped the gun.
Loudd passed away in 1998 as a great what if. A sign of what it was like for black men in America, he pursued history and ultimately fell short when those who did not want him intervened. Regardless of what happened, he serves as a reminder of just how segregated sports were not too long ago and how far they have to go today.