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Lynn Swann talks about the racism he faced as a Black man in the 1960s and 1970s


(Photo by Fred Roe/Getty Images)


Former Steelers wide receiver and Hall of Famer Lynn Swann is a member of the National Football Foundation Board of Directors and was recently interviewed in a Q&A for Black History Month. Swann talked about his career as a football player, broadcaster, politician and athletic director in the Q&A and touched on some of the challenges and obstacles he had to face as a Black man in the 1960s and 1970s.


Swann faced racism in San Francisco on the day he was drafted by the Steelers as their first round pick on Jan. 29, 1974. Swann went out to celebrate with his two brothers and cousin on being the 21st overall pick in the draft, and it sadly ended up being a day that was ruined by racial profiling.


"My career as a professional started out on kind of shaky ground," Swann said. "The day I got drafted, I took my two brothers and cousin out to dinner in San Francisco to celebrate. After we left the restaurant, we got stopped by the police. To make a long story short, and what is typical in a lot of young Black men's lives, we were stopped by the police, beaten up and thrown in jail for nothing. I spent the next two years fighting the San Francisco police in court. We won the case and the lawsuit. Again, that was right after I was drafted by the Steelers. So, the media had the stories all over the front page, saying, oh my, who did we draft here. So, it was trying to fight through that reputation and what was said about me at that particular time to find a place on the football team. It was a challenge, but at the end of the day, for the most part, it worked out. But it would not be the last time something of that nature would happen."


Swann let his reputation be defined by what he did in the community in Pittsburgh and what he did on the field, and not what the newspapers were saying about him after the unjust incident that happend in San Francisco on draft day. In 1981, Swann was named the NFL Man of The Year for his efforts in helping people in the Pittsburgh community. He also was impressive on the field in being a four-time Super Bowl champion, the MVP of Super Bowl X, a three-time Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro in 1978. In 2001, Swann was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.