Gustavus Adolphus College professor Kare Aguilar penned a Washington Post op-ed on Sunday celebrating the milestone of two Black quarterbacks playing at the Super Bowl while also attacking the “legacies of slavery” inherent in the game.
The African-American History professor, who is White, published her piece hours before the big gam insisting that “ideas dating back to slavery have minimized opportunities for Black quarterbacks in the NFL.”
“The matchup between [Patrick] Mahomes and [Jalen] Hurts has been decades in the making, as Black players, including these quarterbacks, have worked to bust century-old myths surrounding Black people, athletes, intellect and leadership that have historically prevented Black players from getting a chance at quarterback in the NFL,” Aguilar wrote.
According to Aguilar, Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles also marked the eighth and ninth Black quarterback to play at the Super Bowl with the first winning Black quarterback, Doug Williams, playing in 1988.
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As the piece continued, Aguilar began connecting the lack of Black Super Bowl quarterbacks to slavery itself.
“To justify slavery and the transatlantic trade of enslaved people, Europeans — and later Americans — asserted that Black people were built for labor. Proponents of slavery argued that biological differences between Black and White Americans necessitated separation and social control. They also developed ideas about the intellectual superiority of Whites, as well as their supposed greater fitness to lead,” she wrote.
Aguilar continued, “These beliefs shaped the development of football in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and later the NFL, which formed in 1920. Initially, the league had a few Black players, but by 1933, they were banned, with no Black players allowed in the NFL between 1933 and 1946. While the league began integrating in the 1940s, it was not until 1962 that the last team, what is now the Washington Commanders, desegregated.”
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However, she noted, integration “did not mean equal opportunity for Black and White players” and that “racist ideas about innate differences between the races” persisted to force Black players out of the quarterback position and still continue to this day.
“This brings us to the meaning of Super Bowl LVII. The game offers an opportunity to see sports as a stage for examining our beliefs and putting them in their proper historical and cultural context. In this case, it is a stark reminder of how the legacies of slavery and the racist ideas underpinning it continue to affect American society,” Aguilar wrote. “That story can help fans better understand how slavery — and the noxious, racist ideas that came with it — still affect how we see race, sports and leadership in the 21st century. If this happens, regardless of which team wins, this Super Bowl will be a victory for all who watch it.”
The NFL has announced numerous initiatives to combat what they called “systemic racism.” For the third year in a row, the league will feature a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song that has been dubbed the “Black National Anthem,” prior to the Super Bowl game.
Mahomes recently won the NFL MVP award ahead of the game on Thursday. That marked the second time he won the award after receiving it in 2018.