Has the NFL Really Progressed? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Is Questioned Again

LAS VEGAS, NV – FEBRUARY 05: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers a question during the Super Bowl LVIII Commissioner’s Press Conference on February 05, 2024, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire)

Monday marked the opening of NFL Super Bowl week for Super Bowl LVIII (58) this upcoming Sunday, February 11th. On opening night, the NFL commissioner was asked a question that has been asked the last three years – first asked, two years in a row, by previous NFL reporter Jim Trotter. Trotter’s contract with the NFL was not renewed, which resulted in his “termination” from the NFL newsroom, so he wasn’t able to ask the question again this year. However, Darren Smith of KLKC Radio of Kansas City surfaced the question to the commissioner again.

“As of this press conference, the NFL Media newsroom still employs zero Black managers, zero Black copy editors, zero full-time Black employees on the news desk, and your only full-time Black employee, Larry Campbell, passed away over the weekend,” Smith said. “And for the league that has more than 60% African-Americans that play in the game – How does knowing this sit well with you, and after two years of being asked this question, why has there not been any change or any hirings in that area?” Smith asked Commissioner Goodell. 

Goodell responded with saying that he disagrees that there hasn’t been any change. He further shared that he doesn’t have the full data but that the NFL as a whole, not including players but staff across the league, is 51% people of color or women for the first time ever – reaffirming that progress is being made. Social media has shared mixed responses to this question being re-asked again and reflecting on if they feel change has been made or not. 

Outside of the newsroom, race has continued to be a topic for the NFL. In 2016 former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee and began to boycott during NFL games in response to police brutality, violence against minorities, and racial injustices. Which wasn’t received well by the general public or former President Donald Trump. Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2017. In 2021, former NFL reporter Jim Trotter wrote a piece on ‘Does Race Remain A Factor In The Evaluation of NFL Quarterbacks?’ – prior to his contract not being renewed by the NFL. The article explores NFL firsts and history in regards to Black quarterbacks. The NFL quarterback is regarded as the most respected but also hardest position on the team. 

According to the NFL Players Association, Fritz Pollard became the first black player to sign with the NFL in 1920 but after his departure the owners of the league implemented a “gentleman’s agreement” which prevented  the signing of more black players – until 1946 when more black players started to integrate the league. In 1953, Willie Thrower of the Chicago Bears made his debut and would become the first black quarterback in league history. It wasn’t until 1968 that the NFL would have a debut of their first black starting quarterback. The first black starting quarterback, Marlin Briscoe, made history on September 29, 1968 with the Denver Broncos. Almost exactly 20 years after Briscoe, in 1988 Doug Williams would become the first black NFL quarterback to both start in a Super Bowl and also win a Super Bowl Ring in Super Bowl XXII. Williams also won the Super Bowl MVP for that game.

Ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes – a black quarterback who is also starting to be labeled as potentially the GOAT – will play in his fourth Super Bowl with the chance to win back-to-back Super Bowl rings. Mahomes has the opportunity to make history again, especially as a black quarterback. 

Full list of ‘Firsts by Black Players, Coaches & Officials in the NFL’ here

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