They will usually accept the backhanded compliments without complaint: "Hey, you're pretty fast for a white dude." They will smile when they get tagged with a nickname like
Doesn't seem like much, does it? Just give them the ball and with it the chance to prove that productive rushers come in more than one shade. But coaches don't seem to have that handoff in their playbook. You're more likely to see
Maybe you're thinking that the racial imbalance is because Caucasian backs just can't keep up. You watch
That's a little like being told the leading role is going to another actor, but how'd you like to be his bodyguard? Says Norco High coach
Gerhart eventually got his college chance, but others, like
For those who do reach the NFL, the path doesn't get any easier. In 2003
Evaluating players shouldn't be about what we envision but what we see. That lesson should have been learned from the decades of discrimination against black quarterbacks at colleges and in the pros. Despite the obvious parallels, no one seems to be as concerned that white tailbacks are getting the same treatment. "I did dozens of interviews about the lack of opportunity for an African-American to be a QB back in the 1980s and early '90s," says
It's not that football needs to aim for some acceptable distribution of races throughout the field, and it's not that every white would-be tailback who is passed over or directed to a different position is the victim of stereotyping. It's about equality of opportunity, just as it has always been. The sports world may be enlightened enough not to immediately dismiss the idea of African-Americans as quarterbacks or coaches anymore, but maybe we haven't come as far as we thought. Maybe we've just found a new demographic to discourage. The dashing of dreams is always an ugly thing, no matter what shade the dreamers come in.