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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Senior NFL writer Jason Reid holds panel at WCL, hails in ‘Era of the Black Quarterback’

Reid gives thoughts on Commanders issues and league-wide questions surrounding the intersection of race and sport

Senior NFL writer and ESPN Contributor Jason Reid visited American University’s Washington College of Law on Feb. 1 to celebrate his book, “The Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America,” published last August, and to kick off Black History Month at the college. 

The event was put together by WCL’s Sports in Society Initiative and its director, professor N. Jeremi Duru. Duru praised Reid as “the best in the country at covering the intersection between race and sport.” 

Reid and Duru’s conversation started on the topic of what it is like to be a Black quarterback in the United States. Reid said that the quarterback is an icon, something that is larger than life in American sports, but also that “[the] quarterback is a uniquely American leadership position.” 

Both Reid and Duru mentioned the Super Bowl that Doug Williams won with Washington, the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl in NFL history,an event that set some pieces in motion for more racial equity in the NFL today. Reid went on to ask that if Black men are excluded from this leadership position, what does it mean for the rest of American society? 

Currently, there is a long list of Black franchise quarterbacks in the NFL. Reid specifically named Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, who is the youngest player ever with a Super Bowl ring and to be named a Super Bowl MVP; Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys; Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, who is the second ever unanimous MVP in league history; and Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals, among others. In the past, white players were the only ones chosen to lead their teams as quarterbacks. Now, Reid welcomes the era of the Black quarterback. 

Reid directed the audience’s attention to this year’s NFL draft class and to next year’s as well. He mentioned that Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and possibly Hendon Hooker from Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee, respectively, are likely going to be starting for teams and be the franchise’s face come the beginning of next season. He also said that “within the next 5-10 years, I think we will see 12-15 Black quarterbacks as franchise faces in the NFL.” 

The conversation then pivoted to Reid and Duru discussing the pain many Black quarterbacks have had in the past, specifically in their upbringing in football through youth games into college football. 

Duru put emphasis on the “psychic pain” of Black high school and college quarterbacks who, up until the mid-1980s, were forced to give up their position in order to take their career to the next level. At the time, few NFL teams were willing to have a Black man as the face of their franchise. 

Reid and Duru also discussed the story of Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon, who, in the late 1970s, was denied a career as a starting quarterback by the then-winning Cowboys. The first question executives asked the NFL scout when he suggested drafting Moon was: “Does he know he’ll have to change positions?”

Moon went on to win many awards in the NFL in the 1980s as a quarterback with the Houston Oilers after playing in Canada for multiple years before. That begs the question that there might have been many other players that could have been Black players that shifted their skills to not play as a quarterback, but could have been fantastic quarterbacks in the league.

Duru and Reid wrapped up their conversation by taking a few questions from those in attendance. One of the questions asked concerned Black quarterbacks that are not superstars in the league, and if they face a higher hurdle to success in the league or not. Reid answered, bringing up some experience he’s had with the hiring systems in the NFL, and how that the coaching system is based on nepotism.

He also noted that sometimes these Black quarterbacks are in better positions to get coaching jobs but many times are overlooked for other candidates. There are still multiple examples of Black men breaking through and becoming coaches in the NFL, such as Mike Tomlin, Brian Flores and new Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans

This panel comes on the heels of Championship Weekend in the NFL, seeing the Chiefs defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20, and the Philadelphia Eagles blow out the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31-7. This Super Bowl will be the first in history to feature two Black quarterbacks facing off against each other, with those two quarterbacks being Mahomes from the Chiefs and Jalen Hurts from the Eagles. Mahomes and Hurts both succeeded white franchise quarterbacks on their teams, proving a point to Reid’s definition of the era of the Black quarterback.

This Super Bowl may be the first to feature two Black quarterbacks, but Reid emphasized that it will be far from the last. 

“These two men are not the first capable Black quarterbacks to do this, but the first with the opportunity to do so,” Reid said.

Edited by Liah Argiropoulos, Delaney Hoke, and Nina Heller. Copyediting by Isabelle Kravis, Natasha LaChac, and Sophia Rocha.

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