by Kenneth D. Miller
Special to the NNPA from the LA Watts Times
It’s been almost 50 years since Charles and Tony King became the first and only Black siblings to play on the same professional football team with the Buffalo Bills in 1967 of the then American Football League.
Charles, a defensive back was a high draft pick in 1966 and his brother Tony, a flanker and multi-position player joined him on the Buffalo Bills team in 1967, thus making them the First Black siblings to play on the same team.
Their journey of how they became the first two Blacks brothers to play on the same team was more tale worthy than the actual time they were on the field as teammates for the hapless Bills team that went 4-10 in the AFL East.
Charlie’s career lasted from 1966-‘69 where he finished with the Cincinnati Bengals, and that fateful 1967 season with the Bills was all football would see of Tony.
However, it was the remarkable circumstance that brought the siblings together on the pro football circuit and how theirs lives unfolded afterwards that’s worth your attention here.
Tony, now 70, remembers vividly when Bills general manager Dick Gallagher came to his Ohio home to sign his brother Charles to a professional contract as a junior in college.
“I overheard Dick speaking to my dad about Charles and my father told him that he had another son who was an All American on offense and defense, but wasn’t as fast as Charles although he was much bigger,” Tony King recalled.
Gallagher got on the phone and called Bills owner Ralph Wilson, and Wilson agreed to sign both of them.
Charles would get a $20,000-$25,000 signing bonus and Tony would sign his signature some seven times for a $10,000 signing bonus.
It should have been a season of joy in the King household, so much that he felt his father would relish in it. However, it would be the last the brothers would see of their father who they later discovered suffered from a desperate gambling habit.
‘So, my brother and me we got that cash and went out and bought new cars and picked-up the girls in the neighborhood,” Tony added.
The Kings became the boys from Alliance, Ohio, who made it.
Charles would have a collegiate all star game to play in against the Green Bay Packers before joining his brother in training camp, with the Bills.
When Tony arrived at camp without his brother Charles who had the big all-star game to play in, he would immediately learned how prejudiced a team Buffalo was at the time, one that employed many rednecks.
Tony said that he was called the N-word so much that it appeared that it was mockingly referred to as his first name, but he had learned from his father who played ball with Marion Motley how to deal with such racial hatred.
“My dad always taught us to never respond when they call you all those names, call your mother names and stuff like that, so we were on point,” Tony said.
His brother arrived to camp a week later, but as the team prepared to make its final cuts, Tony got a knock on his dormitory door.
“My roommate looked around and thought that maybe he might have got cut,” Tony recalled. “So they asked me. Are you Tony King? I said yes, but was in a state of shock. Then he said you are being released.”
Tony was requested to turn in his playbook, but hedged—refusing to give up that notebook.
Several players came in, including the late Jack Kemp and Marty Schottenheimer two of the white players he felt was most honest and fair.
Tony said he never heard those words before that he had been cut and could not believe it. “We worked too hard for that.”
Schottenheimer convinced him to turn in the book and explained that he would be part of the practice team, still receiving a paycheck but not allowed to travel with the team.
“That made sense to me. I used it as a learning experience and every week that would go by, I would just hurt a player.”
Tony had began reading Malcolm X books when the captain of the team told him that he could play with you N—–ers, but he couldn’t eat with them.
So, by this time his brother had joined him in practice and the two decided to take their anger out on the captain. Tony busted him up real bad during practice, so much so that he was dazed himself.
That following year, he would make the cut and become a member of the Buffalo Bills along with his brother. They were teammates, a historical accomplishment that has landed them into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
However, it would be short-lived.
Tony King quit football to focus on acting and converted to Muslim faith and is now known as Malik Farrakhan.
He and his brother have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as the first African-American siblings to play on the same team at the same time.
Tony became an acting star and was the only Black actor in the classic movie “The Godfather” and many other great films, including the original score Sparkle.
He is currently head of security for Public Enemy and Minister Louis Farrakhan.
It’s a long way from Alliance and Buffalo, but Tony’s mission in life is much more clear than the final score of a football game, and he has his brother to thank for that.