Fear of a White Quarterback

Should Ryan Mallett fall in the draft because he might be a Caucasian street guy? Unless you are Stephen Colbert, race permeates everything we do in life, and those who don’t acknowledge this are just fooling themselves. Does this mean that everyone is racist? No. It means we all notice race just like any other physical feature, and sometimes race causes us to feed into certain stereotypes when it fits our agenda. My daughter is only eight but has figured out that most professional basketball players are black. I don’t think this makes her a racist, only incredibly perceptive. The key is to not let this perception become a default to discredit other people’s accomplishments. NFL Network’s Jamie Dukes seemed to use a certain stereotype to demean Arkansas’s Ryan Mallett. Former Atlanta Falcon and current NFL network analyst Jamie Dukes made the comments below.

“For the lack of a better phrase, he’s kind of the first ‘” and forgive this phrase ‘” kind of the Caucasian street guy,” Dukes said on Wednesday’s edition of Total Access. “And what I mean by that, he’s got that Eminem, slash, ya know, Vanilla Ice thing that goes on.” ” I just don’t think, truthfully, people are accustomed to seeing a quarterback . . . having a little street in him. And I think that’s kind of unsettling.”

What makes Dukes’ statements most unsettling is that he fell back on the same stereotypes used against many African-American players in the past. By the way, I don’t think anyone considers Vanilla Ice to be street anymore. I don’t criticize Dukes for reporting what he was hearing from NLF personnel, but I do wonder why he so easily embraced the same shallow judgements that black players have faced in the past.

For years NLF teams shied away from black quarterbacks because they were thought to not have the mental acumen to run a pro team. This myth seems to have been completely debunked or has it? The fact that the NFL seems to be questioning the ability of a white quarterback who apparently doesn’t act white enough makes me wonder if we really have made any progress. I will watch closely to see where Mallet goes in this draft, and if the perception of him as a street kid will hurt his draft stock. Most of the time talent wins out in the NFL draft, so I doubt Mallett will fall far, but falling slightly down the draft could cost him millions.

Maybe teams are more comfortable with what they would consider a wholesome All American player instead of one with street smarts. NFL teams are making huge financial investments in these players, and character should play a part in choosing a potential draft pick. There are many circumstances one could use to critique Ryan Mallett as a player and a person, but hopefully NFL execs don’t fall into the old and tired stereotyping trap. In the meantime, as younger generations continue to blur the lines between black and white, our stereotypes will evolve with us. If the NFL of today is afraid of a white quarterback who doesn’t act white enough, what will the future hold?

Ken Washam

Sports Blogger www.thesportslowdown.com