A Statue Of Football Pioneer Marion Motley Is Appropriate Honor
The statues of historic figures ranging from Confederacy President Jefferson Davis to explorer Christopher Columbus have been removed in several cities in recent weeks as a result of sweeping protests against racial injustice.
However, there is a different type of story emerging out of Ohio this month as organizers there are working to erect a statue of the late longtime Canton resident, civil rights figure, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Marion Motley.
Motley, who was born in Georgia, moved at the age of two with his family to Canton. He was one of four African-Americans who in 1946 broke the color barrier in major league professional sports. Motley and Bill Willis, another Pro Football Hall of Famer, were signed by Coach Paul Brown to play with the Cleveland Browns in the All-American Football Conference (AAFC). It was a year before Jackie Robinson played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The NFL’s Los Angeles Rams also in 1946 signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode to play with them in their first year in southern California.
There already is a half-mile street named “Marion Motley Avenue NE” that separates industrial buildings from a few residential blocks in northeast Canton. It was dedicated in his honor in 2002 after his death but it is not exactly a major thoroughfare.
The Canton organizers last month were before the Park Commission there and received tentative approval for the statue and location. Motley would have been 100 years old this past June 5.
Antonio Hall, who is one of the strong backers of the Motley project, also teaches in the Canton school district. “Of approximately 500 of my students,” Hall says, “none of them knew who Marion is or what his legacy is. To me, that is just a tragedy. Marion was a World War II veteran and very active in our community. He was a hero in many regards. I hope the momentum for the statue keeps going.”
Hall and his group are in the early stages of raising $128,500 for the memorial and plan to unveil it in 2021.
We at NFL Alumni hope this recognition of Marion Motley, one of the real pioneers of our great sport, is successfully completed in the year ahead.