Fritz Pollard

First African American Coach in NFL History

African Americans in professional sports before Jackie Robinson

Did you know Milwaukee had its own team in the National Football League (NFL)? Did you know this team had African American players in 1922? Fritz Pollard had a pioneering sports career. He was the first African American to play in the collegiate Rose Bowl Game. Shifting into the professional leagues, he became the first African American quarterback in the NFL. While in the NFL he would also become the first African American coach in the league's history. Pollard played for the Milwaukee Badgers, an NFL team in 1922 while living in the city. There is some speculation that he may have been a player /coach in Milwaukee, as he was the year prior in Akron.

Later in his career, Pollard continued to take on leadership roles both within the sport as well as in business and media.In the 1930s, Pollard founded his own professional football team, the Brown Bombers. Outside of football, he founded the F.D. Pollard and Co. investment firm in 1922 to serve the African American community, and in 1935 he founded the New York Independent News, the first black tabloid.  

Acknowledging Pollard's legacy in football, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2015. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group promoting minority hiring throughout the NFL, is named in recognition of Pollard’s resiliency in playing, coaching, and managing football.


Fritz Pollard Fritz Pollard in a college photo Source: Images of Brown. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library Creator: Unknown Date: 1916
Frederick "Fritz" Pollard Fritz Pollard photographed in a football uniform in 1916 Source: Images of Brown. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library Creator: Unknown Date: 1916
Fritz Pollard and Paul Robeson Fritz Pollard (left) and Paul Robeson would be teammates in Milwaukee as they played for the Badgers in 1922 Source: The Crisis Creator: Unknown Date: 1918


3000 N. 8th St., Milwaukee, WI

Kitonga Alexander, Milwaukee Bronzeville Histories Explorer, “Fritz Pollard,” Milwaukee Bronzeville Histories, accessed September 22, 2023,