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Sidat-Singh, African-American SU player not allowed to play in 1937 Maryland game, to be honored Saturday

It will be an important game for the Syracuse University football team when it takes on Maryland Saturday afternoon, and it's not all about what happens during the game.
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
College Park, MD (WSYR-TV) - It will be an important game for the Syracuse University football team when it takes on Maryland Saturday afternoon, and it's not all about what happens during the game.

The University of Maryland is planning to essentially apologize for an ugly incident that happened almost seven decades ago.

In 1937, SU’s two-sport star Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was not allowed to play against the Terrapins because of his race.

“Just before the game, they found out he was African-American and not an Indian, and as a result Maryland had a policy called a gentleman’s agreement that you could not play a black player when you were playing a southern school at home," explained Larry Martin, Vice President of Program Development at SU.

SU caved to Maryland and Sidat-Singh, originally from the Washington, DC area, sat on the bench humiliated while his family was in the crowd.

“It’s one of those stories that got passed down, so I would say it’s an important family story and people are very invested in seeing that injustice righted," said Cassandra Jensen, a direct relative of Sidat-Singh.

The University of Maryland will recognize Sidat-Singh between the first and second quarters of Saturday’s game with an on-field tribute including members of his family.

“It was an ugly time in our country and like I said, it’s just great they're fixing something that was just so ugly many years ago," said current SU head coach Scott Shafer.

The current members of the SU football team will honor Sidat-Singh's memory and his courage by wearing No. 19 decals on their helmets at Maryland's Byrd Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

“He was a great example of a student athlete and we should have done something back then but we didn't," Martin said.

SU retired Sidat-Singh’s number back in 2005 in an effort to apologize for the way the school handled the situation.

“Being there at the University of Maryland is going to mean even more because they were the ones who prevented him from playing,” Martin said. “So it’s very late, but it’s better than never and it’s long overdue and he certainly deserves it by any measure."

Sidat-Singh graduated in 1939 with a degree in Zoology.

After college, he enlisted in the US Army in the months following Pearl Harbor and was a member of the first graduating class of what later became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

Sidat-Singh died in May of 1943 when his plane went down in Lake Huron during a training exercise.

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