When the Chicago Bears play Sunday at Soldier Field, they’ll be wearing replicas of uniforms they haven’t worn since 1936.
More significantly, it will be the first time African American players have ever worn them.
The Bears decided to revive the black-and-orange striped uniforms for their game against the Minnesota Vikings, and acknowledged a painful chapter in the 100-year history of the team and the National Football League.
“That was from a time when, unfortunately, African Americans were not included on the Bears or other NFL rosters,” Bears Chairman George McCaskey explained in a video posted on the team’s website this week. “Integration of the NFL and the Bears was too long in coming.”
The NFL was integrated in its early years. But from 1934 to 1945, there were no black players in the league.
The Bears signed Eddie Macon, their first African American player, in 1952.
“The importance of wearing this jersey goes way beyond this moment,” defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said in the video. “Wearing this jersey is a sign, a symbol for the people who came before us that weren’t allowed to wear this jersey.”
Hicks is a member of the Bears’ social justice committee that was formed in 2018 and addresses a range of issues in Chicago. Since its inception, the committee has raised more than $800,000 that has gone to nonprofit groups.
Some of the 1936 jerseys worn by players Sunday will be auctioned to raise money for local social justice groups selected by the Bears.