COMMENTARY: Black quarterbacks are finding success in a position that has been predominantly white


Courtesy of Office of the Maryland Governor

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has taken a massive leap in his second year in the NFL. He has led the Ravens to an impressive 8-2 record and is the front-runner for league MVP.

It seems as if this is the year everyone will refer to as the year of the black quarterback. Many news outlets have noted this shift, with The Undefeated even running a whole series on the topic. 

Men like Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes (to name a few) have all found success through their careers in football. This year, for the first time in history, there are eight black starting quarterbacks in the NFL. 

While this historic event should be a natural occurrence with growing diversity on and off the field, it has actually been a long and rocky road to this point.

The NFL is no stranger to scandals revolving race. One of the most recent dates back to 2016 when Colin Kaepernick was blackballed from the league for kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest against police brutality. 

Racism in football dates back decades before this incident. UCLA Newsroom reported that “On March 21, 1946, Kenny Washington, a former star running back for the Bruins, suited up for the Los Angeles Rams, ending the National Football League’s ban that had kept blacks from playing in the league for 13 years.” 

Not only were black players kept off the field for many years, but once they got on the field, it was almost guaranteed that they would not be playing in a star position such as quarterback.

The reason? It was the general consensus that black men were not intelligent enough and didn’t have the right amount of leadership skills to lead a team. This has obviously been disproven time and time again by the black excellence we have seen on the field both in the past and today. 

The facts: eight have won Heisman trophies, two black quarterbacks have led their team to a Super Bowl victory and four black quarterbacks have started in Super Bowl games. 

The ugly truth: a 2015 study found that black quarterbacks are twice as likely to get benched compared to white quarterbacks. 

Despite all of this success, it wasn’t until 1968 that the first black quarterback, Marlin Briscoe, started a game. Think that sounds like not that long ago? It wasn’t until 2017 that all 32 NFL teams had had a black starting quarterback at some point. 

The point is that despite facing such evident struggles and barriers, black quarterbacks have managed to push through and excel against what the NFL originally thought they could do. 

Once we start acknowledging and encouraging performances like this, more young people of color will be encouraged to chase their dreams. It could even benefit us long-term as a nation.

“When who’s on the field is determined by talent and ability, we rise to the occasion. And the nation wins,” Princeton University professor Eddie Glaude Jr. said.

And what American could truly deny the want for winning?