Photo by Keith Johnston (For more of Keith’s work go to https://pixabay.com/users/keithjj-2328014/)
By Eli Elstein
Oh baby, it’s Monday and you know what that means: another sweet sweet Enter Your Week With Eli where we discuss something interesting in sports. Today, I have something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time, so let’s get started!
The NFL returns this week on Thursday, September 10th. Deshaun Watson will lead the Houston Texans into Kansas City to play the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs and the face of the NFL, Patrick Mahomes II. These two quarterbacks have been fighting for AFC supremacy in recent years, and in doing so have captured the eyes of football fans everywhere. They each bring leadership and poise to their squad while also putting on a show not many others can copy. These two young superstar quarterbacks will set NFL records that stand for decades, and they are both black.
Since the beginning of the NFL, it seems the default setting for quarterback has been white. When I say default I mean default. Of the 1,022 players to play quarterback since the league formed1, 102 of them (just about 1%2) are black and have started a game. This from a league where around 70% of players are black. With that number, you’d think that 70% of QBs would be black, but that has not been the case.3
This statistic is disappointing, but things are changing in the NFL.
At the start of the 2020 NFL season we will see that 10 of the 32 quarterbacks to lead their team into battle are black. Of those 10 quarterbacks, five are under 25 years old, three have MVPs, three have started in a Super Bowl, and one has won a Super Bowl (with a Super Bowl MVP in there too). Black quarterbacks are not only playing in the NFL, they are dominating it.4
While I am excited for the future, it is paramount we also take a look at the past black quarterbacks who have paved the way for these bright young stars. Doug Williams was the first black quarterback to win a super bowl in 1988 while playing for Washington. Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, and Colin Kaepernick have all brought their teams to a Super Bowl berth. Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick were as electric in their time as Lamar Jackson is today. Good players like Daunte Culpepper and Kordell Stewart led their teams for years. The great Warren Moon has won every individual award that matters, including an MVP. Even RG3, who has not been a consistent starter since his brief time with Washington, inspired many in the Washington, D.C. area to love football, including myself.
The work those quarterbacks put in is astounding, and they had to do it while battling the stereotype that black quarterbacks are “running quarterbacks.” The “running quarterback” stereotype portrays a QB whose first instinct is to run instead of to read the defense and pass, causing some people to view them as less tactical than a “real quarterback.” This has long since been proven wrong and I see it as a symptom of racism, insinuating that black people are athletic but not intelligent, which is blatantly false. Not to mention, before black quarterbacks were consistently given the chance to play, white players like Steve Young in the 80s-90s and Fran Tarkenton in the 60s-70s were running around like maniacs. Both played like “running quarterbacks”. Both are Hall of Famers.
There are 5 young black quarterbacks in the NFL who are very close in age to me and who likely grew up watching Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb tear it up just like I did. The next generation of young black men have more than just a few good players to look up to right now, they have multiple superstars. As I said before, Patrick Mahomes II is the face of the NFL, a black quarterback, has both a league and Super Bowl MVP, is only 24 years old, and is not even close to being finished. You won’t be able to keep your eyes off of these young black stars because they’ll be headlining the 2020 NFL season.