Lamar Jackson and the Racism of ‘Running Quarterbacks’
The quarterback has emerged as one of the best players in the NFL — but that hasn’t stopped sportswriters and analysts from sticking with the dumbest dogwhistle in professional sports
Two Sundays ago, quarterback Lamar Jackson led the Baltimore Ravens to victory over the San Francisco 49ers, ending his opponents’ reign as the only one-loss team in the NFL and continuing what has by now become a nine-game winning streak. He also ran for 101 yards, becoming the first quarterback in league history to rack up 100 or more four times in a season — chiefly because of his success with play action and read option plays, in which he fakes a handoff before deciding to run the ball himself.
For many fans, the game served as a likely preview of Super Bowl LIV — two teams, favorites in their respective conferences, operating at the heights of their powers. For 49ers team radio commentator Tim Ryan, it served as a chance to trot out one of the most ridiculous traditions in professional football.
In a talk radio appearance the next day, Ryan delivered a piercing analysis as to why Jackson has been so successful this season. “He’s really good at that fake,” the commentator said. “But when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing.”
So. A few things from a chromatic standpoint. Baltimore’s uniforms are primarily purple and black — colors that, because you are a human being with eyes, you might realize aren’t the same as an NFL football’s. Another thing not the same shade as a football? Jackson’s skin. There are, however, many players in the NFL with Jackson’s skin tone and even similar uniform colors who aren’t enjoying MVP-caliber seasons. Weird how that works.
While the admittedly high comedy level of Ryan’s comments made it easy to dismiss them for the nonsense that they were, this type of racist criticism is sadly familiar to Jackson. Ryan just happened to drop the usual double-speak dressing up the racism.