Somehow, I missed this Patrick Garbin interview with former Georgia linebacker Demetrius Douglas, but came across it yesterday and had to share one passage with y’all.
UGASports: Can you explain further what we’ve heard before—that even 15 years or so after the first black players integrated the program, there still could be a strong sense of team division at Georgia because of race even as late as the 1980s?
Douglas: “I’ll give you my experience. I went from Ohio, where the street I lived on was a melting pot of all kinds of kids playing together and getting along—to College Park, where I attended a predominantly black school while playing on predominantly black teams. So, when I got to predominantly white UGA, it was strange to be playing with some white guys who had actually never had a black teammate before. With some of them, and even others who’d played with blacks before, there was often a feeling that although we were on the same team, we were separate.”
UGASports: And, you actually tried to “break barriers,” so to speak, between certain white players and black teammates, correct?
Douglas: “Yeah, I guess you could say I tried to break barriers (chuckling). So, one day while eating at our athletic dorm’s dining hall, I sat down at a table of white guys, who all instantly got up and moved as soon as I sat down. Well, to be funny, I continued to sit down with those same white players—and with one white guy in particular—and every time, he’d get up and leave. Then, me and a few other players started sitting down with the white player—and, each time we’d sit down, he would get up and leave without even saying anything. Around the time this was going on, I was out in Athens one night with several players, and this white player happened to be at the same bar. After having never talked to us when we sat down at his table, he finally spoke: ‘Why did you guys start sitting at my table?’ I first replied with, ‘We knew you didn’t like it,’ but then added that we mostly wanted to show him that there was little difference between us and him. ‘We’re just like you,’ I told him.”
UGASports: Did anything positive result from your interaction with the white player?
Douglas: “Man, it was unbelievable. Next thing you know, over a couple of beers, we (Douglas and some black teammates) became great teammates with not only this one particular white player, but other white teammates, as well. Suddenly, these white players supported us out in public—like when some fraternity guys would start calling us names, the white players would take up for us. These were the same guys who only months, maybe even weeks before, couldn’t even stand to sit and eat with us. Now, it was like we were more together, like a team.”
That’s from the late eighties. After Herschel Walker carried the team to a national championship. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for black players from the seventies integrating football teams.
Also, where the hell was Dooley when this was going on?