Football field at Lane Tech Stadium to be named after 1912 Lane graduate ‘Fritz’ Pollard, first-ever African-American to play in Rose Bowl
The football field at Lane Tech Stadium is being named after 1912 Lane Tech High School graduate Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard, who was the first-ever African-American to play in the Rose Bowl.
“As we emerge from this pandemic and our society’s collective reckoning with ongoing race, equity and access issues, we can’t think of a better way for the Lane Tech community to come together and celebrate a man who first played for the myrtle and gold and went on to break ground at Brown University and in multiple more fields and sectors across America,” said Michele Weiner, president of the Lane Tech Alumni Association. “Sharing his story with the community has been a labor of love and source of school pride.”
“We are so grateful to all those who brought to our attention the fortitude and many accomplishments of Fritz Pollard,” said Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Pedro Martinez. “We are excited to honor and celebrate this outstanding alum, athlete, coach and businessman.”
The alumni association worked with Lane administrators and school system officials to approve the name change and put in motion a renaming ceremony to take place during the football season later this year.
“We are thrilled to finally acknowledge this pioneer in sports, education, and racial equity,” said Edwina Thompson, principal at Lane. “While this moment is long overdue, we are confident that the legacy of Fritz Pollard will continue to inspire generations to strive for greatness.”
Pollard, raised in Rogers Park, became a three-sport star athlete at Lane Tech in baseball, track and field and football before attending Brown University and playing in the Rose Bowl.
ccording to published reports, Pollard had problems getting served meals on the cross-country train trip to the bowl game, and he was was the target of on-the-field abuse by opponents while playing for Brown, as he reportedly got to his feet quickly after being tackled so players could not pile up on him.
Pollard also became one of the first African-American professional football players, the first professional African American quarterback and the first African American coach in professional football. Pollard was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 and the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
In addition, Pollard was the founder of the Chicago Black Hawks and Harlem Brown Bombers football teams, published the first Black-owned tabloid, The New York Independent News, and founded and operated a talent agency, music production company, public relations firm, tax consultancy and investment firm, according to CPS.
As far back as the 1990s, various Lane Tech community members had suggested honoring Pollard, but it was not until a series of 2019 archival posts on the Alumni Association’s social media page triggered the suggestion by an alumnus and gained traction, according to Weiner.
In 2020, the “Indians” symbol was dropped as the Lane mascot, as the controversy was the topic of an emotional local school council meeting in which members voted in favor of seeking a new mascot. It’s not clear when a new mascot will be in place.
Lane is a selective enrollment school located at 2501 W. Addison St.