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Texas Superintendent Has Some Racist Thoughts on Black Quarterbacks

In reference to Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, the school official said "When you need precision decision making you can't count on a black quarterback."
Photo by Rick Musacchio/EPA-EFE

Proving yet again that Facebook is the downfall of humanity, the superintendent of the Onalaska school district near Houston, Texas left some barely-even-coded thoughts on a public post regarding Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Responding to a comment on the Houston Chronicle's Facebook page about Watson holding onto the ball for too long in the final seconds of Houston's loss, superintendent Lynn Redden said the following:


"That may have been the most inept quarterback decision I've seen in the NFL," he said. "When you need precision decision making you can't count on a black quarterback."

Now, it was a pretty bad play from Watson, but Redden then went on to pull out one of the classic tropes that black quarterbacks specifically, and black athletes in general, have endured since forever: they are not smart, they are just gifted athletically. Find almost any black quarterback and you will find a coach, or scout, or reporter, or broadcaster who will have described him as a "specimen," as Bill Parcells once described Cam Newton, or labeled him as a runner, or a "ridiculously athletic, somewhat raw signal caller." (Deadspin put together a handy tool you can use to search specific terms to see how usage breaks down by race, which you can check out here.)

This same mentality can be stretched out to black athletes across the board. Whereas their white counterparts will be praised for their mental makeup and work ethic, black athletes often get short shrift as physical marvels, beneficiaries of God-given talent. It not only discredits their intelligence, but all the hard work it takes to make it as a professional athlete. These descriptors are then consumed by fans, who bring their own biases along with them, and the end result is this sort of sports-talk-radio/Monday-morning-quarterback analysis: "When you need precision decision making you can't count on a black quarterback."

Redden has since apologized and, well, the apology was not that great. He did tell the Chronicle that he "totally regret[ed]" making the comment (no shit) and that he didn't intend it to be racist (hmmm). But, then he kept talking: "Over the history of the NFL, they have had limited success." There are plenty of reasons to explain that limited success, heavily influenced by the ways in which we already discussed how black quarterbacks are perceived.

Lamar Jackson was one of the best quarterbacks in college football last year. He is also black. Much of the talk leading into the draft was about whether he should be turned into a wide receiver in the NFL. Jackson has been alternately described as "a freak on the field," a "freak of nature," and as having "turn[ed] heads with his running ability." The NFL, and football in general, is slowly evolving—Jackson was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens as a quarterback with an eye toward becoming the future starter—but he is just one example of how stereotypes influence what position a player gets groomed for and the amount of patience coaches have with them.

So, it's not that black quarterbacks have had limited success over the history of the NFL, it's that they have had limited opportunities and even less support.