Andrew Luck and Racial Assumptions:
Are Stereotypes a Part of the Game?
By David J. Leonard
By now you are probably sick of reading and talking about Jeremy Lin. Thankfully, with Linsanity calming down, the conversation has turned back to the court, a shame given his own struggles and those of the Knicks in recent weeks.
Yet, at the same time, I find myself disappointed and frustrated by the missed opportunities within the media avalanche. Amid the endless articles about Lin, many reflected on the ways in which race and stereotypes about Asians limited the ability of scouts to recognize Lin’s talent. Stereotypes not only about the lack of athletic ability of Asians as well as the stereotypes about African American success within basketball impacted the difficult roads traveled by Lin.
“Lin was almost certainly underestimated, or misevaluated, because as an Asian American he does not look the way scouts and general managers expect an NBA player to look,” wrote Touré. “If he’d walked into the gym and wowed everyone right away he would’ve stood out, but when he didn’t, it confirmed the societal script that does not expect Asian Americans to be pro-level basketball players. That’s the prejudice Lin had to fight through.” This sentiment was commonplace throughout the public discussion, revealing a willingness to acknowledge that race does matter, that racism exists as an obstacle, and that stereotypes impact the ways that people interact on a daily basis.
Similar conversations about stereotypes and obstacles faced by athletes because of racial assumptions have followed the NFL Scouting Combine. The likely two-top picks, Andrew Luck (Stanford) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor), have been at the center of these conversations. Luck, a white quarterback, has shocked scouts because of his surprising speed, whereas Griffin has been praised with a level of surprise for his intellect and his field vision (still despite his precision in passing some scouts have lamented his propensity of “mental mistakes”).
With both men, stereotypes have guided the conversation, either through the replication and recycling of longstanding ideas associated with white and black athletes, or with a shock and awe over their not fitting into these boxes. For example, in “Andrew Luck is pretty fast, too,” Michael David Smith highlights how racial stereotypes associated with speed and quickness that leads black quarterbacks to be labeled as scramblers and white quarterback as pocket passers, has led to surprise about Luck, even though his 40 time matched that of Cam Newton:
Luck turned in an excellent 40-yard dash time today of 4.59 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, the third-fastest among quarterbacks this year behind only Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson.
No one runs like Griffin, but Luck is faster than the vast majority of NFL quarterbacks. To put Luck’s time in perspective, it’s exactly the same as the time turned in by Cam Newton at last year’s Combine.
In “Do Racial Stereotypes Dictate NFL Success,” kgans laments the ways in which race impacts personnel decisions and the NFL product:
Racial stereotypes in draft evaluations are something you can see all the time, and it’s not only for the quarterback position. All the time you have draft evaluations describing white defensive ends as “high-energy guys, with great motors.” Or a black linebacker described as being “freakishly athletic with sideline-to-sideline speed.” These racial stereotypes are ignorant and they hurt the integrity of the game.
Just recently, Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American point guard has taken the NBA by storm. On http://www.draftexpress.com, the website described Lin as being “deceptively quick and assertive off the dribble.” Deceptively quick, what does that mean? Is he deceptively quick because you didn’t expect him to be quick since he is Asian?
Kgans makes clear that racial stereotypes are not only restricting the opportunities afforded to athletes but at the same time undermining the quality of the game. Because of racial stereotypes, players are not judged by the content of their crossover, or the precision of their passing, but the color of their skin. “I think racial stereotypes in draft evaluations could have something to do with this. If we could all be more “colorblind” in our talent evaluations we might be able to increase the amount of black quarterbacks in the NFL,” writes Gans. “And believe me, after NFL GM’s have seen what Linsanity has done for the Knicks no one wants to miss out on the NFL’s version of Jeremy Lin. Being more ‘colorblind’ in talent evaluations will help make sure that doesn’t happen.”