(NewsUSA) – Last month, Cam Newton was one of two GQ cover boys — the other was Tim Tebow. The Tebow piece, like so many written about him, was partly an assessment of Tebow’s cultural standing. The title referred to him as a “Sunday Savior” and featured pictures, taken during his Florida Gators days, of him in a pose that conjured Jesus Christ on a cross. You get the feeling that, at some point, we’re going to start referring to the man as a “Christian quarterback.” Meanwhile, in Newton’s 2,500-word profile, there was no mention of being a “black quarterback” — the phrase did not appear. Race didn’t come up, at all.
Around the same time — and about 20 years after shorty Charlie Ward won the Heisman Trophy and then went undrafted in the following NFL Draft — rookie Russell Wilson beat out Matt Flynn for the Seattle Seahawks’ starting quarterback spot. Not only had Seattle invested $20 million in Flynn, but Wilson was — aside from being a Miami Vice-era Phillip Michael Thomas lookalike — a “barely six-foot,” third round draft-pick that spent five years in college. That’s not stud pedigree.
Wilson’s rise came up as a conversation topic in my Harlem barbershop when his mug popped up on ESPN. Some of the patrons were unaware of the kid. A quick recap of his story elicited this response: “Man, that’s some white-boy sh#t.”
Translation: Some short, moderately-touted rookie that wasn’t “Michael Vick” athletic, beating out a more proven quarterback — with significantly more millions of guaranteed franchise-money — is foreign terrain for black quarterbacks.
It was a poignant observation. It was also an indication that we are living in a New Day.
The “black-quarterback” no longer exists.
Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Michael Vick — they’re all simply quarterbacks. A post-racial America often seems like a sickeningly unattainable dream. Who’d have thought the NFL — an institution that can sometimes lag behind modernity — would be one of its vehicles?
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