Maybe to even mention it is to make much ado about nothing. Yet in the back of some people’s minds, the myth of the Black quarterback lingers. Nobody can risk talking about it in public, but the undercurrent still seems there.
We know what’s in their minds; we all do. We’ve heard it countless times over the years of watching the NFL and college football. The Black quarterback is athletic, but he’s not as capable intellectually of winning on the grandest stages as, well, quarterbacks of another color.
Yet do Black men like Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, still have to prove they can?
Blacks have come far in the NFL. Once almost a novelty, they are standing tall among the young arms in the league. From Wilson to Colin Kaepernick to Cam Newton to Robert Griffin III and Geno Smith, the NFL has a deep pool of young passers who are Black and starting at quarterback.
The number should grow with college talent like Teddy Bridgewater poised to step almost immediately into some NFL team’s lineup next season.
Still, the league waits for its second Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Like Kaepernick last Super Bowl, Wilson can’t escape the shadow Doug Williams cast over the game. His victory in 1988 still stands as the only time a Black quarterback has done so, which is why the question keeps returning as a point to discuss.
Of course, we’ve come a long way since a white reporter in ’88 asked Williams this indiscreet and utterly stupid question: “How long have you been a Black quarterback?”
I’d guess that Williams had been Black a lot longer than he had been a team’s quarterback, and his Blackness ought not have mattered as much as how good he was at the position.
That’s the same for Wilson, whose future looks promising. He’s on a wonderful team in the Seahawks; he’s got a savvy coach in Pete Carroll to guide him; and he’s got the personality and the arm to make NFL history: to add his name to the list of quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls.
His first try at it will come Sunday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and the 25-year-old Wilson should have chances to return before his career ends.
Kaepernick, who played but lost in the Super Bowl last year, might have other chances as well. Newton might have his chance; Smith might have his; and so might Bridgewater. And maybe, just maybe, Griffin will, too, if the Washington Redskins can stop treating him like a practice dummy.
The game has slowly opened to such possibilities for men like Wilson, so everybody should stop wondering about the state of Black quarterbacks in the NFL.
For they are alive, and they are thriving.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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Follow Justice B. Hill on Twitter: @jbernardh
(Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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