In life, imagery and the optics of things have great effects on us. In most cases, when the term “elite” is mentioned, NFL quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers come to mind.
It’s a legitimate response because they are regarded by fans and media alike as the best quarterbacks to play within their own era, or maybe even of all time.
I do not in any way, shape, or fashion want to take away from any player who has put their own blood, sweat, and tears into the game, but by the same token I do believe the culture of football, especially at the pro level, has diluted the legitimacy of the black quarterback.
Over the years, most starting quarterbacks in the NFL were white with two or three minority exceptions.
In fact, the first black quarterback did not appear in the NFL until 1968, which was almost 50 years after the league was established.
But at the start of the NFL’s centennial season, something polarizing caught my eye.
For the first time ever, black starting quarterbacks in the NFL made up more than a quarter of starters in the league.
Why is this such a big deal you may ask?
The NFL is approximately 67 percent black, yet only around 17 percent of them are quarterbacks.
Not to mention, the NFL is a league that has a pattern of converting scrambling and athletic quarterbacks who are black into other positions in the game because they don’t fit the mold of the typical drop-back passer.
A great example of a player that disproves this narrative is, Lamar Jackson, the starter for the Baltimore Ravens.
He was a Heisman Trophy winner in college yet many said he still could never be an NFL quarterback because of his ability to run with the football and his poor throwing mechanics.
In his first season in the NFL last year he leads his team to the first round of the playoffs.
This current season, he has hit the ground running with a 2-0 start due to his ability to throw the football accurately.
The fact that Jackson, and the others, were able to defy the odds and be the faces of their respective NFL teams is monumental.
Many young black men grow up watching the NFL and see a lot of players who look like them, but rarely at the position that makes the most money and receives the most recognition.
A young black kid, who plays quarterback for his Pop Warner league, will see many examples of black starters in today’s NFL and hold on to the belief that he may also do the same.
The optics of a black man as the face of a multi-million dollar franchise is one that can change little boys perspective on life whether they want to be athletes or not.
Now, all the NFL needs to do is support the efforts for Colin Kaepernick to be back in the NFL and they would be on the right side of a crisis for once, but that my friends are a story for another day.
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