IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa is planning to name the field at Kinnick Stadium for Duke Slater, a pioneering black player who turned all-American tackle a century ago, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The Iowa Board of Regents, which governs the university, will consider and approve “a proposed naming scheme for the facility” recommended by the school at a meeting next week. No details were disclosed about the agenda item.
After leaving Iowa, Slater became the NFL’s first black lineman and a pioneering judge in Chicago, and he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month. Slater died in 1966 at the age of 67.
Slater attended high school in Clinton, Iowa, and played for the Hawkeyes from 1918 to 1921. He helped the 1921 Hawkeyes finish 7-0, including a win over Notre Dame and coach Knute Rockne that ended their 20-game winning streak. He entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
Slater played 10 seasons as a two-way lineman in the NFL with teams based in Rock Island, Illinois; Milwaukee and Chicago, becoming the longest-running African American player of his time.
Slater received a law degree in Iowa while playing in the NFL. He later practiced law in Chicago and became one of the city’s first black judges.
The idea of honoring Slater at the Iowa stadium was born more than 50 years ago.
In the 1970s, the president of the University of Iowa, Willard “Sandy” Boyd, suggested naming the Hawkeyes Stadium Kinnick-Slater, in part in honor of 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick.
Boyd’s idea met resistance from some fans and a committee opposed to having a joint name. As a compromise, the university named the stadium for Kinnick and a residence for Slater.
The university added a bronze sculpture in 2019 in memory of Slater and the 1921 team outside Kinnick Stadium.
After racial justice protests broke out across the country and on campus in 2020, some supporters renewed their push to put Slater’s name on the stadium. They argued that the 1970s compromise disapproved of one of Iowa’s greatest black athletes and scholars.
“Changing the stadium’s name cannot change the past, but it can make a statement about our identity as a university, community and fans in the future,” university alumnus Cole Grolmus wrote in an op-ed last June.
Last year’s protests also caused several former black players to denounce the racial insensitivity they faced while playing under Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who apologized and made several changes, including kneeling during the national anthem.
An investigation by an outside law firm hired by Iowa found that the program’s rules “perpetuated racial and cultural bias and diminished the value of cultural diversity” and allowed coaches to humiliate players without consequences.
A group of former black players are suing the program and two top Ferentz aides, including his son and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, for discrimination. Some rival schools would use the allegations against Iowa in recruiting battles.
Of the Power 5 conferences, only one football stadium bears the name of a black player: Jack Trice Stadium in the state of Iowa.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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