Who’s ready to desegregate organized sports?

The Seattle Seahawks's Russell WilsonThere is much talk about sports in the news these days, most of it centering on outrage over offensive team names and/or mascots. But there is little talk about desegregation. Make no mistake: Desegregating sports has been a recent topic of discussion. In the last decade, the National Football League made the hiring of black head coaches a top priority, and the number of black quarterbacks has risen dramatically as well. In fact, the odds-on favorite to win this year’s Super Bowl is the Seattle Seahawks, whose quarterback, Russell Wilson, is mostly black within a little American Indian blood thrown into the mix.

We’ve come a long way since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. So isn’t it time to take the next step toward desegregating sports? To illustrate what I am referring to, consider this excerpt from a 2011 New York Times article by William C. Rhoden:

During a screening of a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen on Saturday, it finally occurred to me why the absence of white cornerbacks in the N.F.L. — or the presence of so many black ones — presents a compelling snapshot of the American condition.

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Often, in reaction to an article about the lack of black quarterbacks or the lack of black coaches and executives, critics point out indignantly that there are no white cornerbacks, either. The disappearance of the white cornerback has more to do with shrunken aspirations, a lack of confidence and a reluctance to compete. [Emphasis added]

Cornerback at the N.F.L. level is the most challenging position in sports. It demands extraordinary speed and quickness. Like fighter pilots, cornerbacks must possess an unusual blend of physical strength and emotional toughness, the ability to think and act quickly under pressure.

Rhoden’s job description of cornerback is spot-on, though his claims about why the position is dominated by blacks is a cop-out. To understand, imagine that the highlighted sentence in the quote were replaced with the following:

The low number of black high school graduates has more to do with shrunken aspirations, a lack of confidence and a reluctance to compete.

Liberals would be aghast if they read that statement, even though, unlike Rhoden’s claim, there is evidence to support it.

But the last paragraph of the Times excerpt is even more revealing, though again not for the reasons its author assumes. Rhoden is correct in his assertion that cornerback is a challenging position that requires speed, agility, and more. He is also correct that blacks are better suited to its demands.

It makes good sense to recruit black athletes to play cornerback but for the same reasons that enforcing black quotas in education or the workplace makes no sense. In the one instance, a meritocracy is at work. In the second, it is tossed aside wholesale on the grounds of “fairness” and “equality.”

You can’t have it both ways, even though that is precisely what liberals want.

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