Semi-professional football thrived on the islands for years, as early as the early-1920s and continued into the 1930s and 40s. Hawai‘i’s semi-pro football team was called the ‘Honolulu Polar Bears.’ (They were also and later known as the Hawaiian Vacation Team and, ultimately, the Honolulu Bears.) Doyle Nave, “star passer (and Rose Bowl star) on the Southern California grid squad the last two years (went to Honolulu) to coach and play on the Honolulu Polar Bears, a professional grid squad.” (LA Times, September 25, 1940)
Another notable Bear was future baseball star Jackie Robinson, who had played two years at UCLA where he became the only athlete in school history to letter in four sports (football, baseball, basketball, and track.) Finding that mainland pro teams had no place for African-American players, Robinson responded positively to Brickner’s offer of $100 per game. Robinson left for Hawaiʻi on September 11, 1941, he was guaranteed “full round-trip transportation, all expenses for two months and a job in a defense industry in return for six scheduled games with other Honolulu teams.” However, an injured ankle hampered his performance, and the Bears won only two games. On December 5, 1941, Jackie sailed for California.