by Pat Freeman
Since the inception of professional football in America most would agree that black Americans played an integral part in its development. There is no doubt during its early years blacks played and excelled at just about every position they were given the opportunity to play at, but the history of stereotypical racism in this country prevented many black football players from playing certain positions that required thought, and field generalship. The two positions that blacks were said to be incapable of playing was middle linebacker on defense, and what we are discussing today the position of quarterback on offense.
2-sport, 2-school athlete Russell Wilson says it’s gonna be football for him. He was just signed by the Seattle Seahawks-cs
The position of quarterback on a football team is the highest paid position, and gets the most attention. It is the one position that requires an ability to communicate, and lead men not only with your play on the field but with your personality behind the public’s eye. These racists’ stereotypes are the basis of why there are just a few names that were given some opportunity to play the position during the early years of professional football. Names such as Fritz Pollard, George Taliafero, and Willie Thrower were given token opportunities to play the position but never over the long term as was given to white counter parts. Blacks were natural runners, not leaders were the decries of many during that day, and I believe that is the very basis of how the black quarterback is judged today.
With a name like Thrower how could he be anything but a Qb? Willie was signed by the Bears in ’53 after leading Michigan State to the NCAA Championship. George Blanda said he could throw the ball through the “eye of a needle.” He could also throw 70 yards-cs
Stereotypes that have become the basis of racist decisions are very difficult to change in society. The perception of blacks being unable to play the position of quarterback continued during the late sixties with the emergence of the AFL league that was formed to compete against the NFL. The Denver Broncos drafted a magical quarterback named Marlin Briscoe who started 14 games for them and was rewarded with being traded to the Buffalo Bills and was quickly converted to wide receiver. The Bills later flirted with another Black quarterback in 1971 named James Harris who became the first Black to start at quarterback after the merger with the AFL. Well the story of how black quarterbacks are treated as compared to their white counterparts continued to define how blacks were treated who wanted to play the position of quarterback. Black QB’s were not given the same amount of development time, or patience that was afforded to their white counterparts by NFL teams. James Harris went from a starter with a bad Buffalo Bills team to being traded to the LA Rams and leading them to an NFC division title.
Williams famous SI cover after leading the ‘Skins to a blowout win over Denver in the Superbowl after the ’87 season-cs
The emergence of Warren Moon and Doug Williams during the late 70’s further showed that black quarterbacks were still not being given the same opportunities as others. Warren Moon had to start his career in the CFL leading a team to five straight Grey Cup Championships before he was found worthy of returning to the NFL Houston Oilers and leading them to multiple playoff appearances. Doug Williams who was drafted by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers eventually led an expansion team to their first playoff appearance but was later not given a new contract worth his value and jumped to the new USFL football league. He later found his way back to the NFL Washington Redskins and became the first Black Quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
An old trading-card image of former Bill James Harris who led the LA Rams to several Division Championships and playoff berths.
The Black quarterback has continued to be a victim of various kinds of racism and there is always the hint of position change no matter how successful he has been in college, or the pro level.
Ok this is just me sneaking in a pic of my cousin Marcus Crandall of the CFL who won a Grey Cup back in the ’02 season with Calgary- cs.
Recently the rumor that Vince Young was struggling to learn the offense in Buffalo is just another outrageous lie reported by national media outlets but not local western New York affiliates. The National media has put this out misquoting Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey who merely stated the other quarterbacks were in the offense longer, and never referenced Vince Young’s ability to understand the offense. I’ve said it since Vince Young’s arrival that it is my belief he will be the eventual starting quarterback in Buffalo , and it’s totally in his hands. The reason I say this is Buffalo is starved for success on the field so much so that this could be the one instance of a black quarterback arriving in a perfect storm where he can reach his full potential.
Super-Rookie sensation Cam Newton aims for the same success in the NFL as he had in the NCAA and SEC.
In closing from Fritz Pollard to Cam Newton the Black quarterback is still in my eyesight being judged to a different standard than there white counterparts. That the forces and stereotypes of racism still impede the decisions of those who judge our young athletes no matter how much success they have achieved at the collegiate, and pro level. Think about it Cam Newton just had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history for a rookie quarterback but you still here that Andrew Luck is the perfect QB not Cam Newton who beat out Luck for the 2010-2011 Heisman Trophy. Please take a look at this yourself the standard for the Black quarterback is still an issue that ultimately lies in race.
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