N.Y.U. Bates Must Play! Pinback Button

N.Y.U. Bates Must Play! Pinback Button

Usage conditions apply
This is a round collegiate button that is white with blue printing stating, "Bates Must Play! N.Y.U. - Mo Game." This is a button from the 1940 student lead protest of the N.Y.U. football program and N.Y.U. administration for holding star fullback, Leonard Bates, out of the coming contest against the University of Missouri. The student leaders of the protest (known as the Bates Seven) were suspended from N.Y.U. for three months due to the protests.
While it is well documented that southern football teams and institutions of higher education barred African Americans from participation, it is often forgot that northern schools played a role in this as well. Bates was being held out of the game due to a "Gentlemen's agreement" that black players would not play against teams that had rules against black athletes. Despite the signatures of 4,000 students and the presence of 2,000 students in a picket line, N.Y.U. leadership would not allow Bates to participate in the contest. N.Y.U. would lose to Missouri 33-0. The suspension would cause the students to take extra courses in order to graduate on time, although two of them would never get their degree (one due to the fact he returned home to England to fight in World War II). Many of the northern schools that participated in the so-called “Gentlemen’s Agreement” would stop bending to southern whims as pressure from politicians and students mounted after World War II.
N.Y.U. football began play in 1873 but the program ended permanently in 1952. However, N.Y.U. has left a permanent mark on college football as the Heisman Trophy is modeled after N.Y.U. running back Ed Smith. The Downtown Athletic Club honored Smith with his own honorary Heisman Trophy in 1985.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1940
New York University
Allied Printing Trades Council
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
steel; brass; paper (overall material)
enamel (overall material)
overall: 1 1/4 in; 3.175 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Col. Donald A. Seibert
African American History
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Sport and Leisure
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object