At a time when there has been considerable debate, fueled by an African-American quarterback who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, regarding the question of whether the NFL still has a racial bias when it comes to the quarterback position, another African-American quarterback who won a Super Bowl has raised the issue of racial biases against white athletes.
Doug Williams, Redskins quarterback and engineer of one of the most productive quarters in any NFL title game, is concerned that BYU point guard Jimmer Fredette, who is white, may not get a fair shake.
“It’s unfortunate that some people, whether it’s the media or outside forces, will always look at athletes from a black and white standpoint,” Williams told Ian O’Conner of ESPNNewYork.com, via Brian Tinsman of Redskins.com. “When I was playing football, an African-American quarterback didn’t have as much time to prove he can play. It’s unfortunate that [Fredette] might have to deal with the same thing in the NBA. . . .
“In the NFL the quarterback position was only for whites, regardless of what you did, and I think that’s now changed,” Williams added. “But there was pressure on me as a black quarterback, and I think unfortunately there will be pressure on this Fredette kid to put up good numbers as a rookie so that people don’t question whether he can succeed in a sport where most of the great players have been African-American.
“For me, it’s never been about color. I love how Tom Brady and Peyton Manning play, and I like Josh Freeman, too. The color of an athlete should never matter.”
Amen to that. Though we’re not sure that it’s still an issue in the NFL, where coaches not only want to win but need to win in order to remain employed and so they presumably use the best players they can find regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, shoe size, or preferences in music, there’s a chance that the problem occurs higher up in the funnel, when certain kids who look a certain way are steered toward certain positions. That’s possibly why we don’t see a lot of white receivers or running backs at the NFL level, and possibly why we even more rarely see white cornerbacks.
So while the color of an athlete matters far less now than it ever did at the professional level, decisions made long before kids get to the top of the sport may be helping to create the perception that race remains an issue, years after many concluded that it no longer is.
And while plenty of folks believe that society has advanced to the point where these issues shouldn’t even be raised, the only way to ensure that true change will make it way all the way down to the lowest levels of every sport is to openly discuss the topic, in the hopes that all coaches will become as color blind as pro coaches hopefully are.