Black Coach Sues NFL for Racism: NuBlackNews #3

Black people make up 13% of the population of the United States, but they make up a whopping 70% of players in the NFL. Currently, only 1 out of 32 head coaches in the NFL are Black, and none of the owners of NFL clubs are Black. In 2000 the NFL actually instituted the so-called Rooney Rule which mandated that teams need to interview at least one “ethnic minority” candidate for head coach and other senior positions. But this clearly hasn’t made much difference to the numbers of Black coaches. It’s in this context that former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores has announced his intention to sue the NFL for racist hiring practices. 

So what’s going on here and what does it tell us about the position of Black people in the NFL and in American society? Let me say from the start that the idea of beseeching White owners and decision makers to be nice and start hiring more Black coaches, is an almost ludicrous idea. The lack of Black coaches, and the lack of Black owners, is not caused by flaws of individual bad apples. This isn’t a personal failings issue. Rather, it is a product of Antiblackness that his rooted deeply within American society. It’ll take something much, much more fundamental to resolve this issue.

White Supremacy and Antiblackness

From a critical perspective, the first and most obvious thing to keep in mind is that Black people were brought to the shores of what is now the United States in order to provide labour. Though slavery formally ended in the nineteenth century, labour has remained the main thing that White America has wanted from Black people. Centuries of sustained and violent efforts have ensured that Black people in America have remained in essentially the same position as they were in the 1800s in terms of their structural relationship with White people. This relationship can be likened to the relationship of an imperial power to a colony. One of the key economic features of such relationships is that the colony is made to supply unskilled labour to the imperial power, and little more. 

Sport is a wonderful demonstration of this truth. Players provide labour, basically. Physical labour. So the fact that Black men make up 70% of NFL players shouldn’t surprise anyone. Similar proportions can be found in other fields such as the NBA, where around 75% of players are Black (


But if you look more closely, you find that even among the players, there’s a racial division in terms of playing positions. And this is where we can see the deeper reasons behind the absence of Black coaches.  The Quarterback is seen as the most prized position on the field. He is the person who is meant to use his intellect to dictate the team’s play. The quarterback is thus usually the highest paid player, and the one with the most prestige, honour and adulation. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn, then, that there haven’t been many Black quarterbacks in NFL history. The highest proportion being around 30% at any given time. 

An article in the UK Guardian gives some useful insight into this topic with the following:

“The NFL’s story began with a standout African American quarterback: Fritz Pollard, a chemistry major and All-American at Brown University, led the Akron Pros to the league’s inaugural championship in 1920.

In 1933, however, the NFL secretly decided to ban black players – reportedly at the behest of former Washington owner George Preston Marshall, a committed segregationist.

The ban mirrored the status of black Americans at the time: separate, unequal and living in a de facto apartheid state via Jim Crow in the South and a patchwork of exclusionary laws and customs everywhere else.

The ban also was rooted in the widespread, racist beliefs about black inferiority that underpinned segregation. In the early part of the 20th century…whites assumed that African-Americans lacked the physical stamina and emotional courage to excel at contact sports like boxing and football.

After Jack Johnson became the first African American heavyweight champion in 1908 – and then defeated “great white hope” James J Jeffries in a 1910 bout that triggered white race riots across the country – that assumption morphed.

“You had the Negro Leagues in baseball, and similar kinds of [segregated black] teams in football and basketball… So what happened over time is that the racial ideology changed.

“Whites accepted that blacks were physically evolved, but decided that they were intellectually un-evolved – that they were actually lower on the ladder of evolution than white people, and somehow closer to our animal ancestors. And that’s the ideology, the cultural context, that prevailed when the major sports in the US were desegregated…

>>>As we’ll see a little later, this idea of Blacks being closer to animals was far from a new one. Rather, it goes right back the foundational period of modernity in the 1700s. But returning to the article we read:

…As football and American society continued to desegregate in the 1960s and 70s, the sport was rife with what sociologists call “racial stacking” – a sorting process in which individuals are funneled into certain positions based on stereotypes.

From Pop Warner to the NFL, the down-the-middle positions of center, inside linebacker and quarterback were considered to be “thinking” spots. As such, they were seen as too cerebral for African American athletes, who additionally were thought to lack the leadership and grit to lead other players and perform under duress.”  

Language used to describe Black QBs

There have been lots of studies into the kind of language used to describe players, and how it reflects racial stereotypes. For example, a Bleacher Report article tells us that:  

“The Washington Post studied NFL draft profiles and “found substantial racial differences in the language used to describe quarterback prospects—differences that are consistent with established racial stereotypes.”

It notes how a white quarterback is more likely to be discussed by citing “intangible internal qualities for which he himself is responsible.” However, a black quarterback is more often viewed by his physical characteristics, “to be judged erratic and unpredictable, and to have his successes and failures ascribed to outside forces.”

Race Norming

While reading up for this video, I came across this idea of Race Norming which is used in the NFL. An excellent piece in the Scientific American explains that: 

“On June 2, 2021, the National Football League (NFL) announced it would discontinue the use of race norming—the practice of assuming a lower baseline of cognitive abilities in Black players—in legal settlements for concussion-related injuries… 

In 2013, the NFL settled for $765 million after more than 4,500 retired players brought concussion-related lawsuits against the league. In theory, approximately 18,000 former players were eligible to receive the settlement, which is meant to cover compensation, medical exams, further research, and legal fees for concussion-related neurological diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). While this settlement seemed like a victory to some, Black players quickly found out that it would be harder to access these funds because the NFL required that cognitive tests used be adjusted for race. With this in mind, [two former Pittsburgh stealer’s Players] filed a lawsuit against the NFL in the fall of 2020.

“Black former players are automatically assumed… to have started with worse cognitive functioning than White former players. As a result, if a Black former player and a White former player receive the exact same raw scores on a battery of tests designed to measure their current cognitive functioning, the Black player is presumed to have suffered less impairment, and he is therefore less likely to qualify for compensation,” their lawsuit contended.  

The June announcement was, rightly, met with shock that the practice had even been in use. But for those of us who are attuned to the actions and strategies of the most profitable and popular professional sport league in the United States, the news wasn’t much of a surprise. It is just the latest example on the laundry list of the NFL’s anti-Black, racist and discriminatory practices over the past decades.”

In his book “Black Skin, White Masks” Franz Fanon refered to a phenomenon called epidermalisation. This is when people have negative characteristics ascribed to them because they have a particular skin colour and other physiological characteristics. In this case, the powers that be in the NFL already have the idea that Blacks are physical and unintellectual, and so they ascribe these characteristics to the Black athletes. And critically, these people have the power to literally shape the potential outcomes for these Black athletes.  

Race Science

It’s really important to set all of this in context. These anti-black ideas and practices did not drop out of the sky suddenly. These aren’t NFL-issues. Like every institution and sport, the NFL and American Football reflects the society they are part of. And one of the foundational ideas of this world is the idea that Black people are the lowest rung of humanity.

One of the originators of the very idea of distinct human races was a Swedish intellectual called Carl Linneas who is referred to as the father of taxonomy – the classification of things in nature.

Linnaeus’ work on the classification of man forms one of the 18th-century roots of modern scientific racism. He groups men into four kinds,  AsiaticusEuropaeus, Americanus and Africanus. Though the order changed over the various updates to his schema, Africanus consistently remained at the bottom of the list. Moreover, in all editions, Linnaeus’ description of Africanus was the longest, most detailed and physical, and also the most negative. He refers to them, as lazy, Sly, sluggish, neglectful and capricious.,later%20on%20in%20his%20career.

This helped set the trend for European race science, with revered intellectuals and academics such as David Hume, Immanuel Kant and George Hegel waxing lyrical about the alleged inferiority of Black people. These ideas subsequently dripped into everyday tropes and beliefs about Black people. The practice of race norming in the NFL reflects this widely-held (but not so openly discussed) idea that Black people have a genetically-determined low level of intelligence, and that this helps to explain us being at the bottom of the social ladder almost everywhere in the world. I recommend a Washington Post article from 2019 called “A Brief History of the enduring phony science that perpetuates white supremacy” for a good overview of this rich tradition:

I’ll close by going back to the lawsuit being brought against the NFL by the Black former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores. I commend him for bring the issue of racist hiring practices to the forefront of people’s minds, and I’ll be watching the progress of the lawsuit with interest. But while some incremental progress might be made, I think Black people and others should be paying more attention to the deeper factors at play, and I hope this video has been helpful in this regard. 

NuBlack News #2: Show Notes

Nu Black News Introduction

Welcome to NuBlack News – a new regular programme on the AfricansArise YouTube channel where we analyse news and events around the Black diaspora. Every week on NuBlack News, I will bring your attention to ideas, events and people around the Black world.  Make sure to subscribe to the AfricansArise channel on YouTube. And press the notification button so you always get notified of new videos and editions of NuBlack News. And please like the videos and share them with your friends and family. With that, let’s get started with NuBlack News episode 2!

NuBlack News #2:Notes 

NuBlack News episode 2 is an AFCON Special. AFCON stands for the African Cup of Nations – which is Africa’s premier national soccer tournament. It’s been held every two years since the first tournament in 1957 and the current tournament is taking place right now in Cameroon in west Africa. The semi finals take place today and tomorrow, with the final on Sunday. 

Like all other sports, football is about much more than just the sport itself. AFCON is a perfect microcosm of African politics, history, culture, technology and much more. So today we’ll be using AFCON as a springboard to discuss some hugely important issues on the continent and other parts of the Black world. 

We’ll start with a discussion of African players as resources in the business of football. Millions of African boys across the continent dream of becoming the next Yaya Toure, Samuel Eto’o, Mo Salah or Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, but only a tiny fraction will get to those elite levels. We’ll look at how the football machine is driving the industrial-scale trafficking of African boys into Europe to be exploited by agents and clubs. Football as we know has become a global business, a Capitalistic machine in which multiple billions of dollars are made by a massive intricate web of corporations, agents and other entities. So we’ll have a look at Africa’s place in this international flow of money. At the centre is the players As to be expected, very little of the money floating around football ever goes to Africa, despite the fact that African players make up a significant portion of the players in elite football. 

Then we’ll consider the question of nationality. Some of the teams in this year’s AFCON have featured large contingents of players who were born and raised outside the country they are represented, even outside of the continent. But this is nothing new, because African players have been playing for European countries for many decades now. We’ll discuss some of the political implications of these dynamics. 

Finally, during AFCON 2022, sadly we’ve seen wars and rumours of wars in the continent. Burkina Faso who are playing in today’s semi final against Senegal. On the same day they qualified for the quarter final, their civil government was overthrown in a military coup, one of several coups and attempted coups in the continent in recent years. We’ll discuss this apparent resurgence of coups-de-tat in Africa, focusing on a neglected aspect that connects them. We’ll then look back at some of the most infamous coups in African history, including the one that brought the much loved Thomas Sankara to power in 1983. And we’ll reflect on the tragic case of Patrice Lumumba who was deposed as Prime Minister of Congo in a US-orchestrated coup in 1960. To this day, Lumumba’s descendants have still not been able to properly bury his remains, and we’ll cover that history. 

African Footballers as resources in the Capitalist Business that is World Football

“How the search for football’s next big thing is fuelling a modern-day slave trade”

“FIFA: African football clubs peripheral to global transfer market” Jan 2022:


AFCON 2022 and the question of nationality
“Sierra Leone’s English core underpinning historic AFCON campaign”:

“Parallel Universe: Kylian Mbappe, Bukayo Saka among 10 Stars that could be playing at the AFCON”:

The Return of Military Coups in Africa

“Now there’s a chance of justice for Thomas Sankara, it’s useful to review what got him killed”:

“DRC: Bring Patrice Lumumba Home”:

NuBlack News #1: Show Notes

Bronx Fire, Eric Williams, Religion and African Spirituality in Nigeria + more

In this first edition of NuBlack News (live), we’ll reflect on the devastating Bronx fire in New York, USA, and take a look at some of the horrendous conditions of housing faced by Africans and others in the public housing in the UK.

We’ll discuss the long-overdue UK publication of former Trinidadian Prime Minister’s book Capitalism and Slavery. This book makes a very strong case that Europeans enslaved Africans for economic reasons, and that slavery was essential in developing the rise of Capitalism.

I’ll touch on the argument of Frank Wilderson in his book “Red, White and Black” that it would have made far more economic “sense” for Europeans to have enslaved their own rather than setting up the “triangular trade.” He argues that the main purpose of enslaving Africans centred on the libidinal economy rather than political economy.

Staying with history, we’ll look at how the idea that Africans were “illiterate” prior to colonialism is refuted by countless examples of ancient indigenous African scripts from across the continent. We’ll look at the fact that many Kenyans have been leaving the big city of Nairobi and returning to their countryside roots during the last couple of years.

And we’ll look at some recent comments from acclaimed Nigerian author Wole Soyinka on the negative impact of religion in Nigeria, and also discuss what appears to be a resurgence of African spirituality there.  

Article Links:

Bronx Fire and Housing Issues facing the African diaspora in US, UK

Blaming the Victims—Not the System—for Bronx Fire Deaths” – Jan 2022

Inside estate plagued with so many problems residents have received £1m compensation” – UK Mirror, Jan 2022

cf – Homeownership rates by ethnicity in the UK

Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery Back in print in the UK
Eighty years late: groundbreaking work on slave economy is finally published in UK” – Manchester Guardian UK, Jan 2022

Frank Wilderson’s counter-argument on the motives behind European enslavement of Africans :

Ancient African Writing
Dispelling the Myth of an Illiterate Pre Colonial Africa” – Mandla Blog, Dec 2021

Religion and Spirituality in Nigera
Wole Soyinka: Why Religion Is Number One Problem For Nigerians” -Dec 2021

In Nigeria, Ancestral Spirituality Resurges” – Vice, Dec 2021