GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The Green Bay Packers welcomed back a pair of legendary players to celebrate Black History Month.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Dave Robinson played for the Packers from 1963 until 1972 winning two Super Bowls. The linebacker was selected to the Pro Bowl three times, the All-Pro team twice, and is on the 1960s All-Decade team. He played college ball at Penn State.
Tight end Marv Fleming played seven seasons with the Packers in the 1960s winning two Super Bowls. He then went to the Miami Dolphins where he won two more Super Bowls.
Both players were back at Lambeau on Thursday evening to participate in the Black History Month event. The night included a question and answer session and then the two players took pictures and signed autographs for fans in attendance.
“Something about the city of Green Bay and the Green Bay Packers is infectious and you don’t get over it,” said Robinson.
“I love Wisconsin, I think about that person who told me ‘Welcome to Wisconsin (when I first arrived in the state), he really meant it,” said Fleming.
Both players are African American and arrived in Green Bay at the height of the Civil Rights movement.
“Generally there were no African Americans in town the only ones you saw were the ones that came up on the train, if you saw anybody that was over six foot and over 200 pounds they were a Green Bay Packer,” said Robinson.
Robinson said he’s from New Jersey where Italians, Jewish people, and African Americans all faced discrimination and acknowledged that civil rights injustices were something people all over the country faced. Both players recalled how their skin color made it harder for them to find opportunities to attend college as well.
In Green Bay, Robinson said he recalls moments when he faced discrimination particularly when it came to finding housing.
He said that landlords didn’t want to rent to African Americans out of fear that they would upset their white tenants. He also said former Packer players at the time had the reputation in general of not taking good care of their living spaces and landlords didn’t like renting to Packer players in general.
In what was sometimes a tough landscape, both Fleming and Robinson said that their coach Vince Lombardi was a beacon of hope. They said he treated everybody equally and was one of the first NFL coaches to allow African American players on his roster. He also told owners of Green Bay bars and restaurants that they must serve his African American players just as they did his white players.
“He talked about love for each other, love for mankind, he is one of the people who made me the person I am today,” said Fleming.
“He didn’t look at your face he looked at your playing ability,” said Robinson. “He didn’t care what color you were as long as you could block and tackle and more important based on how you mixed with the team.”
Robinson said the country now is a much better place to raise his child than it was in the 1960s.