From 2010 to 2022, a concerning trend has emerged from the annals of NFL drafts: Black quarterbacks have consistently been undervalued. A detailed statistical analysis from SFGATE uncovers this racial bias, even as the NFL projects itself as America’s premier meritocracy.
This investigation reveals that Black quarterbacks selected within this period had four times the odds of attaining a Pro Bowl nod than their non-Black counterparts, regardless of their draft position. The data indicates that Black quarterbacks typically outshine their peers at every draft level.
Shockingly, an average Black quarterback's likelihood of getting a Pro Bowl selection is higher than a non-Black quarterback chosen about two rounds earlier. This racial disparity implies a systematic undervaluing of Black talent during drafts, a bias that reverberates into their professional journeys.
NFL's Racial Bias in Drafting
These unsettling findings speak less about the players and more about the NFL's scouting departments and executives, who make the pivotal decisions during drafts. While the league has predominantly Black players, a mere quarter of the quarterbacks drafted from 2010 to 2022 were Black.
Expert David Berri highlights the persistent racial undertones, emphasizing that only exceptional Black players are considered, while average White players get a pass. This discrimination is not just about missed opportunities.
It significantly impacts players' earnings. The NFL's tiered pay scale ensures players drafted earlier earn more. This also means these players receive more developmental investments from their teams. Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield's earnings, for instance, show a stark disparity despite being drafted in the same year.
Furthermore, while several Black quarterbacks have excelled, their early draft pay premium dissipates faster compared to their White counterparts. The drafting decisions around quarterbacks like Trey Lance, Brock Purdy, and Sam Darnold underline the racial bias deeply embedded in the system.
Studies in 2007 and 2022 identified a correlation between the lower drafting of Black quarterbacks and the Wonderlic intelligence test, a test that has shown anti-Black bias since the 1970s. Although the NFL ceased administering this test in 2022, a historical precedent had been set.
Despite some positive steps in recent drafts, there remains a long way to go. Prevailing stereotypes play a part too. Black players are often applauded for their "natural" abilities, subtly discrediting their intellect and work ethic.
Prominent players like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Fields have spoken out against these racial biases, emphasizing the constant need to prove themselves. History suggests the journey toward equality in the NFL is an uphill battle.
As historian Lou Moore points out, despite current achievements, the lingering stereotypes and biases might easily send the league back to its old ways. The NFL needs sustained efforts to truly become the meritocracy it claims to be.