Press Box: Tyrod Taylor and the NFL’s racial divide

Illustration by Ian Duffus
Illustration by Ian Duffus.

The Buffalo Bills benched starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, a Hampton native who played at Virginia Tech from 2008-2011, last week in favor of rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman, sparking widespread speculation regarding the organization’s motives behind the decision.

At the time, the Bills sat at 5-4, good enough for the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs if the season had ended then. Typically, teams with winning records don’t make changes at the quarterback position, but Bills coach Sean McDermott pulled the trigger on Taylor — who has completed 178 passes for 11 touchdowns, three interceptions and 1,842 yards this season — anyway.

Peterman proceeded to throw five — yes FIVE interceptions in the first half against against the Los Angeles Chargers in his NFL debut. LA won 54-24.  

Granted, McDermott is in his first year and the Bills roster is in a transitional period. McDermott drafted Peterman while Taylor signed with Buffalo under the Rex Ryan regime. The easy answer is the Bills were trying to see what they had in the young, untested Peterman, while Taylor is a known veteran commodity.

The motives behind this benching, however — just like the public criticism of Cam Newton’s on field antics and the NFL’s refusal to sign Colin Kaepernick — are not simply football related.

The NFL has long ostracized the Black quarterback. Tyrod Taylor, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick are examples of a stigma that has long held quarterbacks of color under a microscope, placing higher standards for them on and off the field.

Warren Moon, the only Black quarterback in the pro football Hall of Fame, wrote a book titled Never Give Up On Your Dream: My Journey on his battle with this disproportionate standard.

“You have to look at the history of pro sports in this country to understand how slowly things changed in the NFL with certain positions,” said Moon. “In football, the ‘thinking’ positions down the middle — quarterback, center, [inside] linebacker — were the ones that we [African-Americans] weren’t allowed to play.”

According to the annual racial and gender report card published by TIDES, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, the NFL is almost 70 percent black. Only 19 percent of NFL quarterbacks and 22 percent of head coaches are Black.

To be fair, this issue runs much deeper than one position. Quarterback is far from the only position indicative of the NFL’s racial divide.

There is nearly a 50-50 split on the offensive line, yet to Moon’s point, more than 81 percent of centers are white. Cornerback is the blackest position at a shocking 99.4 percent, while kickers and punters are the whitest at a similarly jarring 97.8 percent.

Carolina Panthers rookie running back Christian McCaffrey became the first white tailback drafted in the first round in more than 40 years in April. The ‘skills’ positions — running back, wide receiver and defensive back — are generally dominated by Black players. The running back position is 86 percent Black, and wideouts are 84 percent players of color. McCaffrey feels his skillset is placed under a comparable microscope.

“A lot of people don’t give me credit for my skills and talent,” McCaffrey said at this year’s NFL combine. “I have a chip on my shoulder at all times. I’m constantly trying to prove myself.”

The underlying point is skin color drastically affects the NFL’s perception of a player’s skillset, regardless of position.

It’s important to recognize, however, that quarterbacks are forced to deal with this reality more than the rest of the league because signal callers are the faces of NFL franchises, and organizations seek to manipulate and sell them vastly more than any other position.

The real problem is, a full 100 percent of majority owners in the NFL are white.

Marquette King, the NFL’s only Black punter who is famous for his eccentric persona, isn’t worried about letting other people’s perceptions affect his love for the game and drive to be the best at his position.

When you see African-American kids, they’re usually the ones that play receiver, cornerback and all that. The positions that show physical ability. Well, if you think about it, physical ability is shown when you punt and kick a ball,” King said to The Undefeated.

“It’s more of a skill. So if you’re mentally strong, I think that shows a lot too. It takes a lot of mental and physical [strength] to punt and kick a ball. A lot of people can’t do that. I’m going to let you talk s— to me right now, but I’m [going to] win. You know why? Because I got the mindset and the motivation to do what you can’t do.”

Regardless of what position you play, it’s important that every young football player approaches the game with King’s mindset in tow.    

Zach Joachim, Sports Editor



1 Comment

  1. PEACE IN…
    The issue of players protesting is legitimate and reasonable for addressing historic injustices affecting African American people for far, far, far too long.

    Not only is it the Constitutional protected American way, but it has potential to bring much needed changes in thinking and acting to correct systemic problems in need of solution.

    Is an anthem with existing stanza that offends human dignity of some Americans fit for representing all citizens? Historically, European American police have to often over reacted toward African Americans due to racist beliefs and attitudes fueled by white supremacy’s cavalier position toward people of color. Then to add insult to injury, impunity is standard policy while families and friends are left with no recourse other than tears, disappointment, anger, legal action, and or peaceful protest.
    Words of anthem – “No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:”

    Because of institutional racism, many have been slow to address important injustice issues needing resolution, but this protest has enlightened and incited more determination to proceed until justice has victory over entrenched offense of disrespect for dignity of African Americans life and progress as citizens equally in everyway with fellow Americans.

    Those who protest against the protest are really un-American when considering the obvious legitimacy to reasons for the protest being allied with principles of the “Declaration of Independence” and legalized by the Constitution of the United Sates of America.

    It’s 2017 and not 1857 when the power to adjudicate and suppress was formalized by institution of chattel slavery, with U.S. Supreme Court ruled claim that ” no so-called negro had rights bound to be respected by so-called white people. Taney and Scott Key were college school mates and both held slaves in captivity as property.

    And, it is known that US Police are taken to and trained by Talmudist Jews in Occupied Palestine to treat American citizens the same as Palestinian people are mistreated daily in their own immorally and illegally colonialized homeland.

    We all need to be truthfully educated about the origin of color racism. The Southern Baptist Convention, 2017 Conference, dealt with a resolution that identified the origin as the false, blasphemous, and divisive interpretation given Bible story – the “Curse of Ham” doctrine. It’s a sad and convicting tragedy that Southern Baptist refused to adopt the resolution that directly identified and uncompromisingly condemned Curse of Ham doctrine as primary reason and cause of white racism. It seems Caucasian members of the Southern Baptist are unwilling to let go of privilege and power they benefit from Talmudist originated and propagated white supremacy.

    Until Caucasians can face truth of color racism being a false scam, an ung-dly scheme, for dividing Gentiles for exploitation, abuse, and rule by Talmudist Jews, white supremacy will linger on for many more years until the grand finale of Armageddon put Divine Judgement end to it.

    The game is over for African acceptance of second class treatment . African Americans must not just protest, but must move-on to build an independence that free and liberate from being held hostage to entrenched evil of white supremacy.

    We must. And, “YES WE CAN.”

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