DeSean Jackson, who is black, was recently released from the Philadelphia Eagles amid accusations that Jackson was a member of a gang. Unfortunately, this is an example of racism in the world of professional football.
In American sports, racism festers into the decision-making process of executives and coaches in more teams than we, or they, would like to admit.
Jackson, 27, has never been arrested and was never connected to any sort of gang affiliation until about a week before the Eagles released him. The team cited a hand signal Jackson made last year as their main reason for believing he had relations with a gang.
However, hand signals are common among players of all ethnicities. Take Johnny Manziel for instance. Manziel, a white quarterback, makes hand signals after nearly every single play. Nobody has accused Manziel of being in a gang. Yet, because Jackson is a black man from Los Angeles, rumors have started about him.
It would be great if Jackson’s situation was an isolated incident, but prejudice permeates several different areas of football.
Many scouts in the NFL use the term “faster than he looks” to describe white receivers. How can someone look fast or slow? Players such as Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Jordy Nelson, all white men, have each been described this way despite the fact that they run past defenders constantly.
Yet, because it is a statistical rarity to see white wide receivers, many of the men that are good enough to succeed are viewed differently than they would be with a different skin tone.
Another football position where racism is prevalent is the quarterback. Although the NFL has made strides in increasing the number of black quarterbacks over the last two decades, there are still stereotypes that squeeze themselves into the game.
For instance, there are rarely white quarterbacks in the NFL known for their ability to both run and pass. Tim Tebow, who is out of the league, was the only mobile white quarterback to play in the NFL since the turn of the century.
Yet, there are few black quarterbacks that have been known as pocket passers instead of runners. In fact, Teddy Bridgewater is the only black quarterback with a chance of being a long-term starter in the NFL that did not run, from what I can remember.
I am sure there are white kids that are dual-threat quarterbacks and black kids that are pocket passers out there, but they are seldom identified because of assumptions about what a player can do based on his race.
In recent years, racism in football and the rest of the sports world has become less prevalent, but we are far from the finish line. The best way to combat the problem of racism in sports is to simply stop allowing it to be tolerated in any form or fashion in the sports world or otherwise. Hopefully someday soon this column will not have to be written. Until then, it is important that we begin to recognize what is happening and fight against it, so that racism is left only in the history books.