Racial Stacking in Sports


            Racial stacking in sports is not a new phenomenon.  It is prevalent in many sports and has been taking place for many decades.  Stacking can be defined as placing athletes in certain positions based on racial stereotypes.  For example, whites are commonly thought of as smarter and more intelligent than African-Americans, and thus pushed to play positions like quarterback and center in football, and pitcher and catcher in baseball.  These positions are commonly associated with requiring intelligence and quick decision-making.  On the other hand, African-Americans are often pushed to play positions like running back, wide receiver, and defensive back in football, because these positions are commonly thought of as reactionary positions, and requiring greater athleticism.  These prejudices are unfair, and should be eliminated.

According to Tatum, a prejudice is a preconceived judgment or opinion based on assumptions.  Even though prejudices may not be our fault, they are our responsibility to eradicate.  Assuming that whites are better suited for positions like quarterback and pitcher is unjust.  All athletes should be given the same opportunity to play whichever position they choose, regardless of their race.

In 2009, about 70% of players in the NFL were African-American, but only 20% of the quarterbacks were black.  “Black athletes are prey to a fallacious logic that runs something like this: Physical ability and smarts are inversely proportional, and since blacks are more naturally athletic than whites, blacks are less intelligent,” explained sports analyst Jon Entine.  (Entine, 1)  Despite numerous studies that have shown blacks and whites are equally athletic, blacks are still commonly associated with being of superior athletic ability.

Before the NFL draft each year, most college quarterbacks with a chance to go pro are given a Wonderlic test.  It is an IQ test, which according to Charles F. Wonderlic, Jr., “…is not meant to be a ranking system.  The test is a valid predictor of learning potential.”  Some NFL coaches and scouts pay attention to it, but others ignore it and instead focus solely on what each player has done on the field.  Nonetheless, it is widely talked about because NFL playbooks are very big and require lots of memorization.  If an African-American quarterback scores poorly on the Wonderlic test, often times they will be assumed incapable of playing quarterback professionally.  However, when a white quarterback scores poorly, many argue that the test is unimportant, and only on-field performance matters.

Statistically whites have scored higher than African-Americans, but many NFL scouts believe that the test is set up to favor whites, and thus automatically puts African-Americans at a disadvantage.  Regardless, we believe that scores on the Wonderlic test are poor indicators of a quarterback’s ability.  Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, and Steve Young (has a law degree), all scored poorly on the Wonderlic test, yet all three of them went on to extremely successful careers as quarterbacks in the NFL.  Aikman, Marino, and Young are all white, and despite their low scores were still given opportunities to succeed.  Black quarterbacks who score poorly on the other hand, often are not given those same opportunities to succeed.  James Harris who was the only starting black quarterback in the NFL in 1974 said, “As a black QB, they are constantly trying to get you to switch to another position…Blacks get two opportunities to play quarterback in the NFL: a chance and a nigger chance.  One mistake and you were gone.” (Entine, 1)

The prejudices that blacks experience in sports often go unnoticed, and unjustly so.  Just because somebody is black should not mean that they are given fewer opportunities to play positions like quarterback than whites.  Every athlete deserves the same opportunities to succeed, and athletes should be placed in positions based on what puts both them, and their team, in the best position to win.

 

 

Reference:

Entine, Jon. “Dark Thoughts.” Sept. 1999. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://www.jonentine.com/articles/dark_thoughts_recon.htm&gt;.

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