Sad news from my hometown of Buffalo, NY… Ernie Warlick has passed away.
He was a skilled tight end on the Buffalo Bills teams that won the AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. “Big Ernie” was the predecessor of today’s pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.
Like everyone who grew up in Buffalo in the 1960s, I was a passionate fan of the Bills. I loved those Bills teams. Those players were my heroes. The sports heroes of our youth always have a special place in our hearts.
Ernie was special for more than his standout play on the football field at War Memorial Stadium (the “Old Rockpile”). I admire him for his leadership in the players’ boycott of the 1965 AFL All-Star game.
The game was to be played at Tulane in New Orleans. But, the African-American players were subjected to such discrimination, disrespect and discourtesy in New Orleans that Warlick and the other African-American All-Stars refused to play the game unless it was moved. In a remarkable show of solidarity, the white players supported the protest. AFL commissioner Joe Foss moved the game to Houston. Over time, as I learned the story of Ernie Warlick and the ’65 AFL All-Star game, I came to see him in a new light. I gained a more profound respect for my boyhood hero.