The Chicago Defenders, also known as "Defender A.C.", was an African American amateur team in Chicago during the 1920s. The team was sponsored by the Chicago Defender newspaper and its Chicago Defender Athletic Club, for some two years, 1922 and 1923, and played most of the top African American teams in the Midwest and many in the East.
The origins of the team goes back to the formation of the Wabash YMCA team in 1916, which originally included Virgil Blueitt, Bobby Anderson, Thornton Winters, and Raze Curry, but which soon added Creed Hubbard and George Duff. In the fall of 1920, the Wabash YMCA team was taken over by the Forty Club of Chicago, a socialite organization in the city. Along with his veterans Anderson, Winters, Duff, Hubbard, and Curry, Captain Blueitt added the great track star, Sol Butler. The Forty Club team traveled to New York and beat the St. Christopher Black and Red Machine.
The following fall, the Forty Club team was converted into Chicago Defenders by Sol Butler working with Defender business manager Phil Jones. Blueitt continued as captain, and the paper enthused that the team was, “Led by Virgil Blueitt, the most sensational individual basketball player in the country.” The team played a few games in Chicago up through January 1921 at their home court at the Eighth Regiment Armory, 25th and Giles, notably beating the Cincinnati Five (the Ninth Street YMCA team).
In early 1921, the team toured the East and Midwest. In New York, the Chicago Defenders beat the Spartan Field Club and the St Mark’s Flashes, and in Atlantic City, the Vandals. The victory over the New York champion Spartan Braves was particularly outstanding, swamping them 31-9. In March, the team met the Ninth Street YMCA again in Cincinnati, and came away with a trophy designating the Chicago Defenders as champions of the West. In the Central AAU championship that year, however, the team won the first two rounds, against the Grand Haven Five from Michigan and the West Side Sportsmen from Chicago, but lost in the third round to the Exmoors.
Butler left for New York in the late spring of 1922, to try to compete in track and field again, but because of professionalism issues was not able to do so. Butler stayed in New York that fall to captain a new Eastern version of the Chicago Defenders. Blueitt captained the Chicago team, and besides the regulars Winters, Duff, and Anderson also for a while supposedly had the services of Paul Robeson, although his name has not appeared in the available box scores. Bill Brock and Reginald Waddell also became a part of the team. The two teams met at the Manhattan Casino in December 1922 in an East Against West showdown.
Chicago Defenders did much less touring in 1923, and Butler only rejoined the team late in the season. The team also competed in the Central AAU tournament again with little success. The same team also played under the colors of the Wabash YMCA and won the YMCA state championship that year.
In the fall of 1924, the Chicago Defenders were no more, as the Chicago Defender apparently lost interest and dropped sponsorship. The entire team became the Eighth Regiment Armory Big Five, again with Blueitt serving as captain.