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Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on race in the NFL


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Russell Wilson pens a personal, well-informed essay about race in the NFL today. Be sure to check out the great photo slideshow with this story, which has highlights and lowlights (mostly involving the Washington DC franchise) from professional football's history.

I love his story of the Jackson Five!

But it was interesting that no one talked about the black quarterback thing—at least to me—until our team visited the White House in May. President Obama said something about it that day: “Russell became only the second African-American quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl. And the best part about it is nobody commented on it, which tells you the progress that we’ve made, although we’ve got more progress to make.’’

President Obama was right on both counts. It’s a great story that probably is even greater because America isn’t talking about it. I knew that only one black quarterback, Doug Williams, had won a Super Bowl before our victory. I know history, and I know football history. I didn’t want to win the Super Bowl just because of the racial element, although I know that is significant. The Seattle Seahawks winning their first Super Bowl—that was the most important thing to me. Not me being such a young quarterback, or beating Peyton Manning, or not being the prototypical size for a quarterback. Nothing like that. I wanted to win because I wanted to win for my team.

I believe the culture has changed in America, and in the NFL. Nowhere can you see that more than in Seattle. I can tell you without reservation that Paul Allen and our GM, John Schneider, and our coach, Pete Carroll, don’t care what race you are, what color you are. They only care about performance. And yes, there is more progress to be made by minorities in the NFL, but I’m writing this story because I think that in the short time I’ve been in the league, I see a league and individual teams judging people for what they do, not what color they are or how tall they are or anything other than what happens on the field.

You know how I know that? From our practice field in Renton, Wash., throughout this spring.

The five quarterbacks in camp with us had something in common:

Me, African-American.Tarvaris Jackson, African-American.Terrelle Pryor, African-American.B.J. Daniels, African-American.Keith Price, African-American.

We call ourselves “The Jackson 5.” I play the role of Michael Jackson. It’s not that Coach Carroll and John Schneider purposely did that. They put the best guys they could find on the roster to help the Seahawks win. But really, considering the history of the league and the quarterback position, how crazy is it that one team has five quarterbacks in camp, and all are African-American?

I believe that says so much about the state of the NFL today.

A generation ago, could you have imagined an NFL roster with five black quarterbacks? We’re not the only one. The Jets could have three African-American quarterbacks on the roster on opening day. Buffalo and Minnesota, in the past two drafts, have spent first-round picks on African-American quarterbacks of the future. We had two NFC playoff games last year featuring African-American quarterbacks starting for each team—Carolina (Cam Newton) and San Francisco (Colin Kaepernick), and then San Francisco and Seattle for the conference championship.

But this is not all about black quarterbacks. It’s about the league progressing to being more of a place where it’s about ability first, second and third, and about the history of a league that has had some blind spots when it comes to race to be sure—but probably has been a little more progressive over the years than you think.

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