- The NFL’s History with Racism
- The NFL’s Black Players
- The NFL’s Black Fans
The National Football League has been accused of having a racial divide between its players and fans. But what percentage of NFL players are actually black?
The NFL’s History with Racism
The National Football League has a long and complicated history with racism. While the league is now over 70% black, it was not always this way. In fact, up until the late 1960s, the NFL was an almost exclusively white league. This began to change in the 1970s, but the NFL has still struggled with racism throughout its history.
The NFL’s founding and early years
The National Football League (NFL) was founded in 1920, just one year after professional football was first introduced in the United States. The league’s founding teams were all located in the Northeastern and Midwestern states, and all of them were white. In fact, it wasn’t until 1946 that the NFL saw its first black player: Kenny Washington, who was signed by the Los Angeles Rams.
Even though integration was slow to come to the NFL, by 1960 the league had become increasingly diverse. That year, nearly 20% of NFL players were black, which was still lower than the percentage of black men in the general population (about 12%). But over the next few decades, the number of black NFL players continued to grow, reaching 33% by 1981.
However, despite this overall increase in diversity, there are still some positions in the NFL that are predominantly filled by white players. For example, as of 2019, 78% of quarterbacks are white, even though they make up only 45% of NFL players overall. Similarly, 63% of offensive linemen are white even though they make up just 34% of all players.
The NFL’s integration in the 1950s and 1960s
In 1946, the NFL had no black players. This began to change in 1950 when the Los Angeles Rams signed Kenny Washington, a black player from UCLA. It took until 1959 for every team in the NFL to have at least one black player on their roster. From this integration until today, the percentage of black players in the NFL has remained relatively stable at around 20-22%.
However, while the percentage of black players has not changed much, their position within the league has. In the early days of integration, most black players were limited to playing running back or defensive positions. It was not until 1967 that a black quarterback (Marlin Briscoe of the Denver Broncos) started an NFL game. Today, there are many successful black quarterbacks such as Cam Newton and Russell Wilson.
The NFL’s modern history with racism
The National Football League (NFL) has had a long and complicated history with racism. The league was founded in 1920, and for its first few decades, it was overwhelmingly white. In the 1950s, however, things began to change. The league began to integrate, and by the 1960s, a significant number of black players were finally being allowed to play.
However, even as the league was becoming more integrated, its treatment of black players was still far from ideal. In the 1970s, several prominent black players accused the NFL of racism, and the league was hit with a lawsuit alleging that it systematically discriminated against black players. This lawsuit led to the creation of a “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching positions.
Despite these efforts to address its racial problems, the NFL still has a long way to go. In 2020, there were only four black head coaches out of 32 teams, and 70% of players are still black. Moreover, the league has been criticized in recent years for its handling of protests by black players during the national anthem. It is clear that while the NFL has made some progress on race over the years, it still has a long way to go.
The NFL’s Black Players
In the NFL, the percentage of black players has hovered around 70 percent for the past decade. This number has been relatively steady despite the league’s efforts to increase diversity. In the past few years, the NFL has made an effort to increase the number of black head coaches and front office personnel.
The percentage of black players in the NFL
As of 2020, the NFL is made up of 70 percent black players. African Americans have been playing in the NFL since its inception in 1920, but their numbers were small until the 1960s when the league began actively recruiting black athletes. Today, the majority of NFL players are black, with whites making up the second largest group. Hispanics are the third largest group, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders.
The NFL’s black quarterbacks
As of the 2019 season, there are 32 NFL teams, and each team has 53 players on its roster. That means there are 1,696 NFL players in total. Out of those 1,696 players, 70 are black quarterbacks. That means that 4.1% of NFL players are black quarterbacks.
There has been a recent trend of successful black quarterbacks in the NFL. In the last five Super Bowls, four of the winning quarterbacks have been black: Russell Wilson (Super Bowl XLVIII), Cam Newton (Super Bowl 50), Peyton Manning (Super Bowl 50), and Patrick Mahomes (Super Bowl LIV).
The NFL’s black head coaches
Of the NFL’s 32 teams, only two are led by black head coaches: the Miami Dolphins (Brian Flores) and the Los Angeles Rams (Sean McVay). That means that just 6.3% of NFL teams are led by black coaches, despite the fact that nearly 70% of players in the league are black.
The lack of diversity among NFL head coaches is particularly striking when compared to other major professional sports leagues in the United States. In the NBA, for example, Nearly 80% of players are black, but 42.5% of head coaches are black. In Major League Baseball, 7.1% of players are black, but 8.5% of managers are black. And in the NHL, less than 1% of players are black, but two of the league’s 31 teams are led by black head coaches (Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Gerard Gallant of the Vegas Golden Knights).
There has been some progress made on this front in recent years: In 2018, there were six black head coaches in the NFL, a record number. But that number dropped back down to two in 2019, and it remains at just two heading into the 2020 season.
The dearth of black head coaches in the NFL is an issue that has been raised numerous times over the years, with many observers arguing that the league needs to do more to promote diversity among its coaching ranks. But so far, change has been slow to come.
The NFL’s Black Fans
According to Statista, African Americans make up about 13 percent of the NFL’s fan base. And, while that number has been increasing over the years, it’s still relatively low compared to other professional sports leagues. In fact, the NBA and MLS both have higher percentages of black fans than the NFL.
The percentage of black fans in the NFL
While the percentage of black fans in the NFL has been slowly increasing over the years, they still make up a minority of the league’s fanbase. In 2020, black fans made up about 13 percent of the NFL’s total fanbase, according to a report from The Nielsen Company. This is up from 11 percent in 2009.
The NFL has been working to increase its black fanbase in recent years. In 2019, the league launched an initiative called “NFL 100: Together We Rise” that was designed to celebrate African American players, coaches and contributors. The initiative featured a black-tie gala, an essay contest and events at HBCUs.
Despite these efforts, some black fans have been critical of the NFL for its handling of social justice issues. In 2016, then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked a nationwide movement when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Several other players followed his lead, but many black fans felt that the league didn’t do enough to support their cause.
The protests became even more divisive in 2017 when President Donald Trump suggested that players who kneeled should be fired. Although Trump later backtracked on those comments, they nonetheless put pressure on the NFL to take action on social justice reform.
In response to the protests, the NFL created the Social Justice Committee in 2018. The committee is made up of players, coaches and owners who work together on initiatives to “promote equality and effectuate positive change.” Some black fans have praised the committee’s work, but others remain critical of what they see as the league’s slow progress on social justice reform.
The NFL’s black TV viewers
The NFL has long been considered America’s most popular sport, but its popularity among black viewers has declined in recent years. This is likely due in part to the league’s failure to adequately address the issue of domestic violence among its players, as well as its treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In 2016, an estimated 18 percent of black Americans identified as NFL fans, down from 21 percent in 2014, according to a Pew Research Center survey. While the drop-off among black viewers is notable, it’s worth noting that the NFL’s overall popularity has declined in recent years as well: In 2017, an estimated 27 percent of Americans identified as NFL fans, down from 32 percent in 2014.
The NFL’s black ticket holders
African Americans make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population but are only about 6 percent of NFL ticket holders, according to a 2010 Nielsen report. And they are highly coveted by the NFL because they tend to buy more licensed merchandise and tickets than white fans, the report said.
The league has been working to attract more black fans for years, including partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and sponsoring events like the NFL Draft Experience at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In 2017, the league launched a $100 million social justice initiative with funds going to groups working on issues like education, police-community relations and criminal justice reform. And this season, the league has continued its “Take a Seat, Take a Stand” campaign, which allows fans to donate tickets to social justice causes in their communities.