The image below is a screengrab I took from Yahoo! Sports’ front page yesterday. Peep the caption below Toby Gerhart’s pic and see how long it takes you to get to a needle-pulled-across-the-record moment.
No, it’s not the word “evaluator”. No, it’s not the words “downgrade” or “legitimate”. It’s those last two words. You know, the ones that have caused a lot of trouble in this country during its entire existence.
The article this links to, penned by Michael Silver, is slightly more provocative, as you might be able to tell from the title “Race Factors into Evaluation of Gerhart”. And if that didn’t clue you in, the teasers seen in this screengrab I took later the same day would surely clue you in.
The thrust of the article: Gerhart (fresh out of Stanford) is a very good running back who could go to some lucky team in the first round of the NFL draft–if only he were black! Instead, he can only dream of the tarnished glory of being a second-round pick at best. Curse this pasty visage!
To be fair, Silver does not arrive at this conclusion out of thin air. He has quotes from an anonymous scout who reached the same conclusion, and Gerhart shares his experience during a team interview that indicated race was a factor in their thought process. And he is far from the only writer to pen an article on this subject. A quick Google search reveals tons of articles about Gerhart The White Running Back.
Regardless, to say a white guy faces prejudice of any kind while also saying that black guys get all the breaks is, at best, touchy, and worst, foolishly ignorant of what consitutes prejudice. Gerhart isn’t exactly being kept down by the lack of color of his skin. He finished second in Heisman voting this past year. He is highly regarded by many talent evaluators. (There are also some who question his ability to play as well in the NFL as he did in college, for reasons that have nothing to do with a lack of melanin.)
The question is not “Will he get picked at all?”, but “Will he get picked in the first round?” Basically, it’s a question of whether he gets ridiculous first round money or slightly less ridiculous second/third round money.
Is there a perception that white guys can’t be running backs in the NFL? Yes. That’s a stereotype, but it’s not prejudice. Stereotyping is when you say something dumb and racist. Prejudice is when you won’t let certain people move into your neighborhood. Words can be hurtful, but they don’t compare to someone not allowing you basic human rights.
Gerhart will get a chance with some team. He’ll get a very good chance, in fact, because he will likely be a high-round draft pick, which means both big bucks and high expectations. He won’t have to play in a separate, all-white league. He won’t have to move to another country where he can freely ply his trade as a running back. If he takes the field for an NFL team, he won’t have garbage thrown at him and receive death threats against his family.
And if he fails? It will be because he just wasn’t good enough, not because there was a vast conspiracy keeping him down. Oh, and he’ll have a degree from Stanford to fall back on, which, last time I checked, was kind of a big deal.
Don’t worry, sportswriters. No matter what happens with Gerhart, I think white guys will make it through okay.