LA Rams celebrate Kenny 'Kingfish' Washington, who helped break NFL ban on Black players

Christiane Cordero Image
Friday, February 24, 2023

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Rams are celebrating one of their greatest players you may never have heard of.

Kenny "Kingfish" Washington emerged from UCLA as one of the best football players in the country at the worst possible time.

The NFL was in the middle of what would be a 12-year ban, preventing Black players from playing.

Washington was the first Black player in the modern era. He, and the 1946 LA Rams, ended that ban.

The Rams of today had the vision to tell his story, and partnered with The BLK Originals and Loyd Visuals to create "Kingfish: The Story of Kenny Washington."

"We're really excited to show the film to not just highlight a moment but truly inspire change beyond today as well," said Johnathan Franklin, the Rams' director of social justice.

The 16-minute short was filmed in Inglewood and was shown at the Miracle Theater.

It doesn't just look into the past, it also challenges what we think we can and can't do today.

Kasey Phillips was an attendee who saw the film and like many viewers, couldn't help but reflect.

"We're a sports family, grew up in sports and like they say everyone's heard of Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, I've never even thought. That's what kind of got me, that it never even occurred to me like oh who was the first Black man to come into the NFL?" Philips said.

It's how filmmaker Sam Hoggs hoped to challenge all viewers.

"We wanted to make sure we appealed to the younger generations as well," Hoggs said.

Scripted scenes show two young football players and their uncle going through the journey of learning about Kenny Washington.

There is something for everyone to learn, even for family like Kysa Washington.

The most moving part for her?

Seeing larger-than-life images of her grandfather being brought to life.

"I have a lot of old school pictures that we have, we have many photos. But to actually see him in motion is something special," Kysa said.