Civil Equality


Emlen Tunnell

Emlen Tunnell was the first black player to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, playing from 1948-1961, first with the Giants and then the Packers from 1959-1961. He played as a halfback and a safety, but eventually exclusively a safety, and became one of the first defense only players in the league. Vince Lombardi specifically asked for Tunnell to follow him to Green Bay after 11 years in New York. Since Lombardi worked on the Giants staff he knew of Tunnell and not only how great he was at the game but also how great of a veteran leader he was. At 34 years old

“[Tunnell] was brought to Green Bay to instill the tenacious Giants defensive philosophy in the Packers.” Tunnell came to Green Bay and was told “he had just doubled the black population in Green Bay.” 1

“When I got there, Nate Borden was the only black player in Green Bay before me, and living in a place where you wouldn’t keep your dog. Vinny… found out about it and made Nate move and gave the people who rented him the place hell. He found Nate a decent place to live. Vinny didn’t go for any kind of prejudice.” -Emlen Tunnel 2

Vince Lombardi paid the rent for Tunnell to live at the Hotel Northland, where the other half of the African American population resided. The addition of Tunnell made Green Bay a more admirable destination for black free agents to want to join the Packers. Due to Lombardi’s demanding and aggressive style, Tunnell was somewhat of an “interpreter” for new faces coming to Green Bay and playing. Coach Lombardi worked hard to find decent lodging for his African-American players like Tunnell, Willie Wood and Willie Davis.

“Lombardi stepped into the social void the black players often felt.” [Lombardi] went to the bars in town and told each one that if they discriminated against his black players, then the bar would be off limits to all Packer players.” 3

Tunnell “became an extension of the coach” and his “presence eased racial tensions” around the league and within the team. He could defuse most situations by just talking with people. Tunnell came in and his veteran leadership helped propel this team, with Vince Lombardi from nothing to a perennial champion.

Herb Adderley

Lombardi felt discrimination throughout his life due to him being Italian-American; racism and discrimination was absolutely intolerable. Herb Adderley was a phenomenal college football player and was lucky to join Vince Lombardi and the Packers for the beginning of his playing career.

“Green Bay was a better-than-average place to live, but it offered challenges just the same [black players] were often strangers in a generally friendly but strange land ”4

One of the biggest issues that black players had was their living conditions, Adderley, in his rookie year lived in a

“small apartment, where Willie Davis used the bed and Herb Adderley and Elijah Pitts would flip a coin to determine who would sleep on the couch and who would sleep on an army cot in the kitchen.”5

This type of adversity wasn’t seen normally with white players so Vince Lombardi decided he has to be the one to do something about it, demanding that (then) team President Dominic Olejniczak put players up in suitable apartments in Green Bay. Within a year conditions improved, 8 players from the first Super Bowl team lived in the new apartments which were built on Lore Lane, 6 of whom were African American. Later more and more apartments were being built in order to accommodate players, another on Lore Lane and one on Western Avenue, with the luxury of being only 1.5 miles away from Lambeau Field, these were welcome changes that Vince Lombardi was at the center of, creating new housing for his black players was of upmost importance to him. He said, “Look if the black players are going to help this team win the city needs to understand that these players need good places to live. ”Lombardi would take his players outside of the city in order to have all of his players together in one place rather than split everyone up due to racial issues in cities, so in one example he kept players on an Army base in Fort Benning, Ga. During a preseason game in Columbus, Ga. Vince Lombardi was one of the major reasons that Herb Adderly says

“The best years of my life were spent in Green Bay.” 6



  1.  Kramer, Jerry. Lombardi: Winning is the Only Thing. New York and Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1970. 
  2.  Kramer, Jerry. Lombardi: Winning is the Only Thing. New York and Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1970. 
  3. Maraniss, D. (2000). When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  4.  Adderley, H., Robinson, D., & Boyles, R. (n.d.). Lombardi’s Left Side.
  5. Ryman, Richard. “Race and Football: Neville Exhibit Looks at Black Packers’ Experience in Green Bay.” Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, WI) August 6, 2018. Retrieved from
  6.  Adderley, H., Robinson, D., & Boyles, R. (n.d.). Lombardi’s Left Side.