Schmidt: Black QBs:

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2005

Aren’t we over this?

By Christian Schmidt

This column shouldn’t even be running. After all, it’s about a dead issue. Surely everyone is convinced by now that blacks can play quarterback in the National Football League, right?

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One would think so, but maybe not. A barrage of articles last week in newspapers across the county concerned the showdown between Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick, two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks and two of the 16 black quarterbacks in the league, in the NFC title game between Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Apparently black quarterbacks are still something to marvel about. There’s no denying that McNabb and Vick are marvelous players, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the color of their skin. It’s in their rocket arms, swift legs and the minds that allow them to play the most difficult position in sports.

I mean, surely there’s no one out there that really thanks black players can’t be successful NFL quarterbacks anymore, is there?

Surely Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon and Steve McNair, all successful NFL quarterbacks who happen to be black, have convinced everyone.

But maybe not. People still feel the need to call attention to quarterbacks’ race when commenting about them. Even in the spate of articles about last week’s all-black QB showdown, authors of literally dozens of articles and columns felt the need to emphasize just how unimportant this story is, how black quarterbacks don’t have to prove themselves in the same way they once did.

But is that true?

Certainly things have changed, but black quarterbacks still face pressures their white counterparts don’t have to face.

Ask Warren Moon, who said he faced almost constant threats because of his race, both while he was starring at the University of Washington and then in his NFL career with several teams. Moon recently said he thinks things have changed, but black quarterbacks are still hounded if they have the slightest setback in their season.

But certainly, there are more and more talented black quarterbacks than ever before.

How about McNabb and Vick, two of the most dynamic players in the league and two players as important to their team’s success as anyone.

The NFC Pro Bowl squad will have three black quarterbacks, McNabb, Vick and Minnesota’s Duante Culpepper.

In another day and time, all three might be playing different positions. McNabb looks a lot like a linebacker, Vick a wide receiver and Culpepper a defensive end. Indeed, both McNabb and Culpepper were recruited by colleges that wanted them to change positions.

It’s not amazing that blacks can play quarterback. If anything, it’s amazing there aren’t more. There are 16 in the NFL, but that means there are 74 more NFL quarterbacks that aren’t black. In a league where slightly more than half the players are black, that’s surprising.

Christian Schmidt is a sports writer for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at