2 Oct 2020

Celebrating Black History Month

#BlackHistoryMonth

Betfred Super League will support Black History Month with its own distinctive plans to recognise the impact made by black players in the sport over the past 125 years.

This forms part of Super League's support for, and contribution to, the important game-wide anti-discrimination strategy, launched at the start of October.

Over the next four weeks, Super League will reveal the amazing stories of thirteen influential players who left their mark on the sport, and on the communities they represented.

The month-long campaign will peak at Round 17 (fixtures played on 22 & 23 October), which will be re-named Black History Round. The fixtures in Round 17 will see Hull FC travel to Perpignan to face Catalans Dragons as well as Wigan Warriors v Salford Red Devils, Castleford Tigers v Hull KR, Huddersfield Giants v Wakefield Trinity and St Helens v Leeds Rhinos.

Some outstanding biographies of some unforgettable players including Billy Boston, Clive Sullivan and Leon Pryce will be featured across Super League digital channels over the coming weeks, starting right here with Lucius Banks who, in 1912, became the first black professional rugby league player. 

Lucius Banks (Hunslet)

Lucius Banks led a remarkable life. He was not just the first American to play professional rugby, he was also the first black professional rugby league player when he made his debut for Hunslet in early 1912.

Born in 1888, Lucius was an instructor at America’s West Point military academy when he was spotted playing American football by a Hunslet official visiting in New York. Hunslet felt that his quarterback skills could translate to rugby league and paid his ticket across the Atlantic to join them.

He made his debut on 17 January 1912, scoring a try against York in front of 6,000 people at Hunslet’s famous Parkside ground. He went on to score tries in each of his first four matches.

‘The lad will feel a little strange for a short time [and] we hope that he will receive every encouragement’, wrote the Hunslet programme, and the committee found him a job with a local saddler.

But the transition from quarterback to stand-off was difficult and the contrast between life in England and America may have caused homesickness. On New Year’s Eve 1912 Lucius returned home, and the Hunslet committee told its fans ’we know you all will join with us in wishing him a pleasant voyage and every success in the future’.

He returned home where he fought racism and had a distinguished public service career. When he died in 1955 the flags on public buildings in his home town of Arlington, Massachusetts flew at half-mast.

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