You've never heard of the most important player in NFL history

On this special episode of The Long Game with LZ & Leitch: You've never heard of the most important player in NFL history. In 1946, Kenny Washington became the first Black athlete in the modern era to sign an NFL contract, joining the Los Angeles Rams and breaking the color barrier a year before his former teammate at UCLA, Jackie Robinson, did the same in Major League Baseball. Today few people know the full story of the man nicknamed “Kingfisher.”

To discuss Washington’s legacy, Will and LZ are joined by Super Bowl champion and ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson; Newsday football columnist Bob Glauber; and Kenny Washington’s grandson, Kraig Washington. The panel also talks about the NFL’s ongoing issues with race and Keyshawn explains why team owners, who are almost exclusively white billionaires, aren’t interested in hiring Black head coaches.

Johnson and Glauber are the co-authors of “The Forgotten First: Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley, Bill Willis, and the Breaking of the NFL Color Barrier” — a book about the league’s first Black players.

Watch The Long Game with LZ & Leitch Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 1pm ET at And listen out for our next podcast, which drops on Wednesday, Feb. 16.



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