Racial Stereotypes by Position in the National Football League

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Racial Stereotypes by Position in the National Football League

The National Football League is one of the most legendary organizations in American history. Spanning nearly one hundred years and drawing millions of viewers from across the country every week, it has become a dominant force in American culture. It has given incredible opportunities to people from Samoa to Nigeria, to the children of immigrants and poor families who struggle to pay the bills every month who could only dream of money, fame, glory, and a chance to prove themselves on a national stage (Lomax). However, beneath the sunny exterior of the NFL lies a dirty secret- racial stereotypes are alive and well in the league, and bigoted generalizations dating back to the integration of the league in the mid-twentieth century still persist to the present day.

In order to understand racism in the modern NFL, one must first examine its origins. The League, under pressure from the famously prejudiced owner of the Washington Redskins, George Preston Marshall, banned African-Americans from the league in 1933 (Maraniss 27). League owners, coaches, and players remained content to continue as an all-White league for the foreseeable future. However, in 1946, the Los Angeles Rams were informed in court that, since their stadium was funded with taxpayer dollars, and they had no intentions to share it with a separate-but-equal Black team, they would have to integrate in accordance with the Supreme Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson judgement (Maraniss 32). The Rams, bound by the court decision, signed many African-American players, including outstanding UCLA running back Kenny Washington, who helped lead the otherwise hopeless Rams to an impressive third-place finish (Blackburn and Thompson 19). After the success of the Washington and the Rams’ other African-American players as well as the success of Black players in the then-separate American Football League, the NFL began to integrate, with all...