Details of the history of black players in professional American football depend on the professional football league considered, which includes the National Football League (NFL); the American Football League (AFL), a rival league from 1960 through 1969 which eventually merged with the NFL; and the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), which existed from 1946 to 1949.
Charles Follis is believed to be the first black professional football player, having played for the Shelby Steamfitters from 1902 to 1906. Follis, a two sport athlete, was paid for his work beginning in 1904.
From its inception in 1920 as a loose coalition of various regional teams, the American Professional Football Association had comparatively few African-American players; a total of nine black people suited up for NFL teams between 1920 and 1926, including future attorney, black activist, and internationally acclaimed artist Paul Robeson. Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall were the first black players in what is now the NFL in 1920. Pollard became the first (and until 1989, only) black coach in 1921; during the early-to-mid-1920s, the league used player-coaches and did not have separate coaching staffs.
After 1926, all five of the black players that were still in the subsequent National Football League left the league. Several teams were kicked out of the league that year, and with a large number of available, talented white players, black players were generally the first to be removed, never to return again. For the next few years, a black player would sporadically pop up on a team: Harold Bradley Sr. played one season with the Chicago Cardinals in 1928, and David Myers played for two New York City-based teams in 1930 and 1931.
In contrast, ethnic minorities of other races were fairly common. Thanks to the efforts of the Carlisle Indian School football program, which ended with the schools closure in 1918, there were numerous Native Americans in the NFL through the 1920s and 1930s, most famously Jim Thorpe. The Dayton Triangles also