Vince Young and the Donovan McNabb controversy

Last week’s big story was the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick. This week it’s Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb’s comments about how tough it is being a black NFL quarterback:

“There’s not that many African-American quarterbacks, so we have to do a little bit extra,” McNabb tells HBO. “Because the percentage of us playing this position, which people didn’t want us to play … is low, so we do a little extra.”

and

“Let me start by saying I love those guys [Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer],” McNabb tells HBO. “But they don’t get criticized as much as we do. They don’t.”

I agree with McNabb that too much is being made of his comments, especially the “do a little extra” part. I think it’s a throwaway line that doesn’t mean much of anything.

However, I don’t agree that black quarterbacks are criticized more than white quarterbacks. Ever heard of Rex Grossman? Chad Pennington? David Carr?

I do think that, generally speaking, black quarterbacks are criticized differently than white quarterbacks. Often, when a black quarterback scrambles, he’s criticized for not staying in the pocket. And, ironically, black quarterbacks are often criticized for not taking the opportunity to run. Can you imagine someone criticizing Carson Palmer or Peyton Manning for not running?

When asked about McNabb’s comments, here’s what Vince Young said:

“That is his opinion. I really feel like myself, black or white quarterbacks, we all go through something because that is the life of a quarterback You have to be able to handle all the pressure and you have to be able to handle the losses and you have to be able to handle the media saying this about you. If you can’t handle it, then you have to get off that position and go play something else.”

Yes, that is the life of a quarterback, and it’s a good thing that Young knows what he faces and is prepared to handle the pressure. But is Vince Young free from scrutiny based on his race? Far from it.

Here’s a quote from Stephanie Stradley about comments she received on her blog in 2006:

“Right after the draft, on my former blog, any time I mentioned Vince Young, there would always be a few really nasty racial blasts that I’d have to delete. I am guessing that the stuff a black quarterback hears during the course of his life would probably be worse than that.”

The bottom line is that, whether or not you agree with McNabb, he is insinuating something that many people do not want to acknowledge or confront. Racism exists in 2007, and Stradley’s statement is an ugly reminder of this.

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