top of page

Why This Super Bowl Means More

On Sunday, we will be treated to a show like no other; 22 testosterone-fuelled men running around a pitch, with a side of Rihanna and a smothering of ultra-capitalist excess. But beyond that, Super Bowl 57 will be the first time in history that two black Quarterbacks face off against each other in America’s biggest sporting event. The Kansas City Chiefs will be led by reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, Patrick Mahomes, whilst the Philadelphia Eagles will follow third-year starter, Jalen Hurts, into battle. This, however, is not just a moment to celebrate. it is also a moment that highlights the glaring disparities in the sport along racial lines. It demonstrates the impact of racism and eugenics within the sport itself, which resulted in it taking until 1968 for a black player to even be named a team’s starting Quarterback, 18 years after the sport truly began to integrate black players in 1950.

Philadelphia Eagles Quaterback Jalen Hurts (left) and Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (right) will dual for destiny on Sunday night. Picture: Dyaln Buell/Getty.

Marlin Briscoe is the name of the first black Quarterback to start a game in the ‘Super Bowl era’ of American Football (the name given to seasons played 1967-present). This was not before his team, the Denver Broncos, attempted to change Briscoe’s position entirely. It was only after the starter was injured and his back up failed to perform that Briscoe was given a chance. This remained the case for black quarterbacks in the NFL until the 1990s - it took until 1994 for half of the NFL’s teams to have even started a black Quarterback - when the overt discrimination began to fade slowly. This lead to Mike Vick being the first black Quarterback taken first overall in the NFL Draft (the process in which the top college football prospects are signed to NFL teams) in 2001 - 65 years after the first draft. There have been four black Quarterbacks taken in the subsequent 17 NFL Draft’s, with 14 of those first picks being in that position.

Marlin Briscoe playing Quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

The Quarterback (QB hereafter) position is seen as the most important position on an American Football team. They are expected to be the leader not only of the offence but the whole team. The position is often related more to players intangible qualities than their physical ones - intelligence, bravery and leadership skills - and it is here where we discover the reason behind the underrepresentation of black athletes in the position. The truth is American Football coaches discriminated against black players because they saw them as physical specimens in their entirety. Black athletes were forced to change position to less ‘mentally demanding’ roles (Running Back for example). This became a theme not only limited to the pre-90s NFL. Most recently, the now-Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson faced a myriad of news reports prior to his selection in the 2018 NFL Draft critiquing his throwing ability (perhaps the most crucial skill of any starting NFL QB) to the point where articles and pundits alike began to echo the sentiments of the 20th Century, suggesting he should be moved to running back in order to best utilise his physical abilities. Despite this, Jackson won the NFL’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ (MVP) award in only his second season, awarded to the best player in the entire league that year, and is about to enter his sixth season as the most valuable ‘Free Agent’ (a player whose contract has expired and is free to sign with any team they wish) on the entire player market; with speculation that his new contract will eclipse that of fellow black QB Patrick Mahomes to become the most lucrative in the history of the sport, worth upwards of $450 million over the length of the contract. I think that proves just how much ability he has at the quarterback position, and if it doesn’t do it for you then just type in ‘Lamar Jackson mixtape’ on YouTube to watch him singlehandedly pick apart opposing teams.

This form of racism in sport, however, is not only linked to American Football. Comparisons can easily be drawn to the reaction drawn by Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and his campaigns to provide free school meals to children in need. Despite picking up the slack for a Tory Government which is seriously lacking in morality and any governance skills, there remained those who wished to criticise him, claiming he should ‘stick to football’ rather than help the country's most deprived (including sitting Tory MP Natalie Elphicke). If we compare this to the reaction to a similar situation, when Liverpool FC captain Jordan Henderson launched a charity during the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage Premier League footballers to donate to NHS staff, such criticism was very hard to find. The disparity is self-evident.

In reality, the reduction of black people to physical specimen who lack rationality and intelligence is not just a sporting issue - it’s societal. American segregation - and it’s important to remember that it only legally ended in 1964 - was predicated on the dehumanisation of black people and the reduction of their life to be worth less than that of a white person’s. The links between this line of thought and the treatment of black sports stars is clear. If you are black, you are ‘powerful', ‘athletic’, ‘strong'. If you’re white, you are ‘intelligent’, ‘brave’, ‘intellectual’. Black athletes are reduced to their physical attributes whereas their white counterparts are labelled according to their mental attributes as well as their physical ones. This trope is still prevalent in sports and society all over the world, and I fear it is going to persist for years to come. Whether it be the idea of the angry black woman or complaints of racial prejudice and discrimination being batted away as overreaction, we cannot claim to be truly anti-racist until we can acknowledge the underlying racism in these tropes.

Nevertheless, this is testament to Patrick Mahomes III and Jalen Hurts, who on Sunday will make history and inspire generations to come to push through the boundaries put in front of them due to the colour of their skin.

Cullen Holas is a featured contributor for Left Brain Media. You can find more of his work here.

27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page