Willie Lanier, a former star of the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has announced an initiative to install state-of-the-art playing surfaces at the football stadiums of nearly three-dozen historically Black colleges and universities. Partnering with FieldTurf, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and installers of artificial playing surfaces for athletic teams, the initiative is called the Honey Bear Project after Lanier’s pro-football nickname. The initiative seeks to raise $50 million over the next two years.
According to Lanier, “poor field surfaces put Black college teams at a competitive disadvantage and make it tougher to recruit top high school players, who compare the fields to other schools that may have ‘high tech’ artificial surfaces. Bad football fields can hinder the quality of play because patchy uneven surfaces make good footing more difficult and can negatively impact player performance.”
In 1968, Lanier became pro football’s first African American starting middle-linebacker. He played his collegiate football at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
“With these fields, I hope to leave a bigger footprint on the game of football — leveling the playing field for the nation’s Black colleges by replacing their old fields with new ones,” Lanier said.