ESPN’s “The Undefeated” is once again pushing the race card.
In a piece titled, “Justin Fields And The Double Standard Of Black Quarterback Prospects,” Martenzie Johnson claims one key reason the stock of projected first round draft pick Justin Fields is falling… is his skin color.
According to Johnson, Fields’ plummet down the projected draft boards is an example of the uphill battle black quarterbacks still face when compared to their white counterparts.
“When it comes to black quarterbacks in particular,” Johnson writes, “the NFL has long gone out of its way to keep the position as white as the painted yard lines on the field.”
Let’s take a step back. It’s important to acknowledge that, in the NFL’s past, black players certainly faced discrimination. African-Americans were rarely chosen to play in the quarterback position, largely due to the overtly racist notion that black athletes didn’t have the mental ability to handle all that the position entails. Thankfully, trailblazers like Marlin Briscoe, Doug Williams, and Warren Moon helped change that way of thinking.
After leaving college, Moon was forced to play in the Canadian Football League after NFL teams showed little interest in drafting him to play quarterback, despite his physical abilities.
“Reading defenses, understanding schemes, being the face of a franchise: There were just a lot of people in pro football who didn’t think we could do that,” Moon told The NY Times in 2016.
Since Moon began his NFL career in 1984, after six years in the Canadian Football League, everything has changed.
In today’s NFL, the highest paid quarterback in league history — Patrick Mahomes — is black. The second highest in NFL history is Dak Prescott — also black. The third and fourth highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL? Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, who are both black.
The idea that black quarterbacks are overlooked due to their skin color is demonstrably ludicrous, but don’t try to convince ESPN.
“We can leave the draft evaluating to the experts, but with zero explanation, two white quarterbacks with comparable or lesser resumes than Fields were suddenly can’t-miss picks,” Johnson wrote. “Whether that is true is irrelevant; it’s more about what happened to Fields since he declared for the draft that exposes the draft process – and the entire football-industrial complex – for the, let’s say, racial institution that it is.”
“Quarterbacks are expected to be smart, rational decision-makers who command a team and act as the de facto coach on the field,” Johnson claimed. “Accuracy and strong arms are a plus, but it mostly comes down to what’s between your ears rather than any other physical attribute. As the authors of The Bell Curve would have you believe, few Black men possess those attributes”
Black quarterbacks can be found throughout the NFL. At the start of the 2020-2021 season, there were 10 starting quarterbacks who were black — the most in NFL history.
Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Dwayne Haskins, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, Tyrod Taylor, Deshaun Watson, and Russell Wilson were all under center to kick off the season.
When it comes to Fields’ draft stock, his potential descent has nothing to do with the color of his skin. NFL prospects rise and fall on draft boards as quickly as the wind changes direction.
There are legitimate on-the-field questions as to Fields’ ability to come off his first target and make the second read, and whether he’ll continue to hold onto the ball for too long at the next level.
NFL and Denver Broncos Insider Benjamin Allbright told The Daily Wire, “Yeah. People talk about his processing and second read stuff — and 90% of people that are saying this stuff don’t know what they’re talking about — but you look at the tape, and you see a guy who holds onto the ball for too long and that’s the one thing that concerns me.”
“Now, when you go back and look though, that’s kind of a function of the Ohio State offense,” Allbright continued. “Still, because Ohio State has superior athletes across the board, they can afford to run that offense. It’s deep developing vertical routes, which is a lot of what their offense is — vertical option routes. And so you get this long term protection because you have better offensive lineman and faster receivers. So, your offense is naturally designed to do a little bit more with that kind of stuff. And so I think he gets dinged a little bit for that and you know, you can kind of coach that out of him a little bit in the NFL.”
If Fields does fall in the draft, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened. It’s not uncommon to see a projected high draft pick sitting in the green room as he continues to be passed over. And — though ESPN and “The Undefeated” will never admit it — many of them happen to have been white.
Aaron Rodgers was thought to be a top-10 pick in the 2005 NFL draft, but was selected by Green Bay at No. 24. Brady Quinn was invited to the 2007 NFL Draft only to have to wait in the green room until the Cleveland Browns took him with the 22nd overall pick. Jimmy Clauson was expected to be a first-round draft pick in the 2010 draft, but fell out of the first round and wound up being picked by Carolina at No. 48 overall.
ESPN must realize that not everything is about race. In fact, most things are not about race, including the position of quarterback.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.