Williams says NFL drops back into pocket of racism with QBs

October 10, 1990|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Evening Sun Staff

As Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson can attest, professional football still has its head in the sand.

While baseball and basketball have accepted female reporters in the locker rooms and blacks on the field and in the front office, the National Football League is, comparatively, in the prehistoric era.

There are no black general managers, only one black head coach -- Art Shell of the Los Angeles Raiders -- and just three black starting quarterbacks, the most visible position on the field.

The most famous black quarterback, Doug Williams, is sitting at home in Zachary, La., waiting for a call from some NFL team in need of a former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

Oddly enough, Williams, who led the Washington Redskins to the league title in 1988, is the only starting QB from the last six Super Bowls who is not currently active. At 35, he is two years younger than Steve Grogan, who started Super Bowl XX for the New England Patriots, and just one year older than the Giants' Phil Simms and the 49ers' Joe Montana.

Williams' new book, "Quarterblack: Shattering the NFL Myth," (209 pages, $18.95, Bonus Books), may have something to do with his involuntary absence from the playing field. The Grambling graduate wastes no time indicting the league on charges of racism.

Williams charges that there are few black quarterbacks because "most NFL coaches, general managers and owners are scared of black quarterbacks or they just don't want a black man running their team, period."

Williams, with co-author Bruce Hunter, claims the NFL gives young white quarterbacks the opportunity to develop and mature, while hardly giving blacks the same opportunity, or yanking them if they don't succeed immediately.

He talks candidly about Philadelphia's Randall Cunningham, a former Pro Bowler. Williams says he has told the Eagles' quarterback that he will have to endure some indignities.

"And Randall is going to learn that if he ever falls out of grace, if there ever comes a time when he can't do the things he's capable of doing now, he's going to become just a black quarterback," Williams writes.

For example, Williams maintains that the Browns' Bernie Kosar wouldn't be in the league if he were black, while he charges that the NFL "overlooked" the leadership abilities of Detroit's Rodney Peete, because he does not have a strong arm.

"If you can't drop back and throw a 20-yard out on the line . . . you can't play in this league," Williams states. "But if the white guy comes in and can barely get it there, they say he's got great touch. That's how they rate it."

Williams makes trenchant observations about the caliber of offensive and defensive talent in the league and of trends.

Where Williams fails is when he steps away from football to philosophize on the world at large.

He attempts to paint the citizens of Arizona as racist because they elected conservative Republican Evan Mecham as governor while Williams played for the U.S. Football League's Arizona Outlaws in 1985.

And Williams, who has suffered through the death of his first wife and his father, proves to be a sexist. While describing his second wife, who forged a check, he states that because he and his wife had differences over money, that all women are after money from men and can't be trusted.

Still, "Quarterblack" offers rather revealing insights into one of the last bastions of the 19th century: the National Football League.

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