pictured above: Charlie Ward. The best Black quarterback to play basketball
By Jason Muhammad
In the aftermath of the 2020 NFL Draft, it is clear to me that the majority of the members of the American Sports Media are seeking the death of Black quarterbacks, and before they die they need a will. Not a will, as in the legal document that divides their assets among their loved ones. But they need a will, as in the faculty of consciousness and deliberate action that provides one the ability to cope with the problems of life, and meet and overcome obstacles and challenges.
So before Black quarterbacks are killed off, they need the will to stay alive.
Because with every NFL draft their will is tested, the prerequisite to the breaking process, when the question is asked: Would you be willing to change positions?
Every year, the Black quarterback is inevitably cornered at a podium and asked if they are willing to NOT be a quarterback. They are asked if they are willing to NOT be the Team Leader, the Field General, the Face of the Franchise, the Greatest All-American Hero, to NOT be themselves.
He could be the Heisman Trophy winner, the National Championship MVP, it doesn’t matter. If he is Black and a quarterback, the American Sports Media must see if he has a will, and ask him if he is willing to change to another position in order to get drafted into the NFL.
Wide receiver? Defensive back? “Gimmick” quarterback slash “Slash”? But for every Cordell Stewart who submits his will to be a jack of all trades and his own master of none, there is a Charlie Ward who would rather just walk away.
Remember Carlie Ward? The best Black quarterback player to play basketball?
In 1993, as the Florida State University quarterback, Charlie Ward won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Johnny Unitas Award, the Davey O’Brien Award, the Sullivan Award, was ACC Player of the Year, and was named the MVP while winning the National Championship Game.
But at the end of his collegiate football career, he declined to be forced to elude would be sacks in the form of spiritual death plots that inevitably arise whenever you are asked if you have a will. So he went to a place where he could still pass the ball, even though the value of the score was not equal.
Ward went to the NBA, drafted in the first round of the 1994 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. He had a 12 year career, playing the point guard position he played all of his life.
This year it was Jalen Hurts’ turn to be tested. In February, ESPN staff writer, Brook Pryor, reported the following:
“Jalen Hurts is making this much clear: He is a quarterback. In his media session at the NFL combine, Hurts was asked whether he would consider switching positions. ‘I’ve always been a team-first guy,’ Hurts said, ‘but I think I’m a quarterback. I think that’s that.’”
She went on to write: “The Heisman finalist was a quarterback his entire career at Alabama and Oklahoma, but his athleticism makes him an attractive candidate to be converted to wide receiver or running back.”
The coded language is louder than Peyton Manning screaming “Omaha” and throwing up gang signs on a Sunday night. When I hear it, historical images flash in my mind and I envision an American slave auctioneer asking: “Are you willing to pick tobacco? You are a very athletic specimen, you know, and they don’t grow cotton on the Jones’ plantation.”
As the timeline skews, I see reporters as hooded knight riders, on a mission to burn crosses on the lawns of would-be “trouble makers,” because they seem to relish in lighting the flames of doubt and suspicion, and calling into question the essence of a young Black man’s the character.
The time warp continues, and I see hints of a not too distant past when J. Edgar Hover conspired with the media to manipulate the American public in an effort to crush those he determined to be enemies of the state, and stop the rise of a “Black Messiah” who could unite and galvanize the masses of the Black community.
The parallels are all too real, and the annual question seems intended to instill fear into the hearts of hopeful, young Black men. It has become a ritualized vetting process intended to reduce the number of Colin Kaepernicks that enter the world of sport and play, who could negatively impact production in the fields – I mean, on the field.
Potential draft picks are even unsure how to respond, seeking advice from others who have also had their will tested. They know that giving the wrong answer, or even displaying the wrong demeanor when they answer, can cause their value to depreciate in the eyes of owners.
I know some may want to throw a yellow flag on this line of thought. But, if the cleats fit, wear them when you bring out the chains to measure.
I would like to ask the every member of the American Sports Media the same kind of question, just to see the response: Would you be willing to shift the focus of your profession to reporting on lifestyles, food and fashion, and pop culture instead of sports?
For example, I would love to hear someone report Ms. Pryor’s answer if I asked her: “Would you be willing to leave ESPN to work for Vanity Fair or Woman’s Day Magazine? I mean, you are a female, and your biology and seemingly pleasant demeanor makes you an attractive candidate to write human interest stories from the perspective of a modern woman.”
Instead receiving an answer, I would be accused of harassment or gender discrimination, and public opinion would turn against me. But this would only reveal hypocrisy.
But in this game of life where turnabout is considered fair play, I would like to question some sports reporters. And I would like to question some of the really good ones. I want to ask those who have been nominated for, or won the Dick McCann Memorial Award. That’s the award given each year by the Professional Football Writers of America and named for the first director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I want to ask an awardee if they ever considered writing movie reviews instead of reporting on the NFL, kind of like Siskel and Ebert back in the day.
I understand that these media members have spent countless hours improving their craft. I know they may have even chosen a school based on the intention of entering into the profession; a school strong in journalism or communications. And I know they probably spent years studying the language, finding their literary voice, and fine tuning their unique perspective. I’m sure they even had to work to develop subtle, sport specific interrogation techniques disguised as questions, learning how to ask the thing four or five different ways. I understand all of this…
But I still want to ask the question.
Just like they ask the same disparaging question to Black quarterbacks who are looking to get drafted into the NFL.
Most of these young men have played quarterback all of their lives. They put in the work. They have been the leaders and captains of their teams since they were 9 years old. They went to all of the camps and clinics, and competed in all of the 7 v 7 tournaments. They threw touchdowns to their childhood friends, and made college decisions based upon the opportunity to do the same with new friends.
But now, after years of hard work and sacrifice, their accomplishments are disregarded, their will must be tested, and the filtering question must be asked.
Last year it was Lamar Jackson fielding the question of his willingness to change positions. Before that they tested the will of Teddy Bridgewater. Before that it was Robert Griffin III. Before that, Cam Newton. And on, and on, and on…
So American Sports Media, please answer the question: Are you willing to change your position, and stop using your platform to promote white supremacy and Black inferiority?
Consider this a test of your will.