Moving the Chains: The Civil Rights Protest That Saved the Saints and Transformed New Orleans with Erin Grayson Sapp
The Cabildo
New Orleans
Event Date: Thursday, November 10, 2022

Join us for an evening with Erin Grayson Sapp as she discusses her new book, Moving the Chains: The Civil Rights Protest That Saved the Saints and Transformed New Orleans (LSU Press, 2022). This program is sponsored by the Friends of the Cabildo as part of the Second Thursday Lecture Series. It is free and open to the public, but registration is required. The program will take place on Zoom on Thursday, November 10, 2022, 6:00–7:30 p.m. CST. Please register here: https://forms.gle/YgHLkGNhmKGipFos6

 

About the Book

We remember the 1966 birth of the New Orleans Saints as a shady quid pro quo between the NFL commissioner and a Louisiana congressman. Moving the Chains is the untold story of the athlete protest that necessitated this backroom deal, as New Orleans scrambled to respond to a very public repudiation of the racist policies that governed the city.

In the decade that preceded the 1965 athlete walkout, a reactionary backlash had swept through Louisiana, bringing with it a host of new segregation laws and enough social strong-arming to quash any complaints, even from suffering sports promoters. Nationwide protests assailed the Tulane Green Wave, the Sugar Bowl, and the NFL’s preseason stop-offs, and only legal loopholes and a lot of luck kept football alive in the city.

Still, live it did, and in January 1965, locals believed they were just a week away from landing their own pro franchise. All they had to do was pack Tulane Stadium for the city’s biggest audition yet, the AFL All-Star game. Ultimately, all fifty-eight Black and white teammates walked out of the game to protest the town’s lingering segregation practices and public abuse of Black players. Following that, love of the gridiron prompted and excused something out of sync with the city’s branding: change. In less than two years, the Big Easy made enough progress to pass a blitz inspection by Black and white NFL officials and receive the long-desired expansion team.

The story of the athletes whose bravery led to change quickly fell by the wayside. Locals framed desegregation efforts as proof that the town had been progressive and tolerant all along. Furthermore, when a handshake between Pete Rozelle and Hale Boggs gave America its first Super Bowl and New Orleans its own club, the city proudly clung to that version of events, never admitting the cleanup even took place. As a result, Moving the Chains is the first book to reveal the ramifications of the All-Stars’ civil resistance and to detail the Saints’ true first win.

About the Author

Erin Grayson Sapp holds a Ph.D. in English and American history from Tulane University. She has served as a scholar-in-residence for the Historic New Orleans Collection, writing for their magazine, giving talks on local athletics, and researching the Sugar Bowl and Saints-related topics.