Seattle Seahawks quarterback and Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson put down the football long enough to pen an essay for Sports Illustrated’s MMQB blog about race in the NFL. To summarize, Wilson thinks it’s all good, especially in the Seahawks organization. He writes:
“I believe the culture has changed in America, and in the NFL. Nowhere can you see that more than in Seattle. I can tell you without reservation that Paul Allen and our GM, John Schneider, and our coach, Pete Carroll, don’t care what race you are, what color you are. They only care about performance. And yes, there is more progress to be made by minorities in the NFL, but I’m writing this story because I think that in the short time I’ve been in the league, I see a league and individual teams judging people for what they do, not what color they are or how tall they are or anything other than what happens on the field.”
Not everyone sees things as rosy as Wilson, however, including at least one member of his own team. After sparking a nationwide discussion of race for being called a “thug” for verbally going off on an opponent on live TV earlier this year, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman joined several other African American players to participate in a panel discussion on race and sports at Harvard in April. While perhaps things have gotten better, they are far from great, specifically, they say, because of the double-standard they perceive in how people view black athletes compared with other races. Via Fox Sports:
“It’s almost the angry black man syndrome, especially football players,” Sherman said. “I couldn’t imagine if there was a huge brawl on a football field, what the consequence would be, what the comments would be. There was just a huge brawl in baseball, a huge brawl. I haven’t heard about it since.”
“Hockey they fight every day,” Houston Texans running back Arian Foster chimed in. … “The refs skate around and just watch it,” Foster said. “If we fight, it’s like ‘Those animals.’ ”
” ‘They’re monkeys, look at them,’ ” Sherman mocked. … “That’s the frustrating part, the double standard, the triple standard. … The way an athlete is viewed. The way an African-American athlete is viewed in football or basketball, the predominantly African-American sports.”
While healthy disagreements remain, however, one thing is certain: Just being able to honestly discuss race in sports is a major step forward for both athletes, fans and the society at large.