2023 Super Bowl full of historic milestones
It was a long, hard-fought road leading to the historic Super Bowl LVII, where for the first time, two Black quarterbacks – Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs – squared off for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
For the National Black Players Coalition (NBPC), Super Bowl 2023 was an especially remarkable milestone.
“Comprising 70 percent of the players on the field, we– the Black Community– are the NFL!” said NBPC representatives in a statement to media.
The National Black Players Coalition (NBPC) has pioneered the fight for justice on behalf of Black quarterbacks since it was founded by students on the campus of HBCU Howard University in 1994.
Over 25 years ago, in 1997, a group of Howard University students– men and women– gave up their Saturday studies in the library and instead, with books in hand, boarded a chartered bus at 4 a.m. in front of the legendary Cramton Auditorium armed with banners, flyers and press releases. The group headed from the campus to the National Football League (NFL) draft site at Madison Square Garden in New York City to protest the lack of Black quarterbacks in the NFL and its draft process.
This was the first ever NFL Draft site protest on behalf of Black quarterbacks and the Black community in New York City, and it was held for three consecutive years from 1997 to 1999. The protests led to the one and only largest class of six Black quarterbacks drafted in 1999 which included: Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, Shaun King, Aaron Brooks, and Michael Bishop, 63 years since the NFL draft began. The students were led by NBPC founding student, Fred Outten.
Throughout the years since its founding, the NBPC has led multiple protests in support of Black quarterbacks in the NFL, including demonstrations at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the nation’s capital.
In the past, the NBPC has conducted a special forum on the NFL and Black quarterbacks at Howard University, met with members of Congress, the NAACP, the Washington, D.C. mayor, the D.C. Council and the Maryland County Executive. Thousands were educated on collecting petition signatures calling for the then Washington Redskins–now Washington Commanders–to draft their first Black quarterback.
In the early 2000s the NBPC also demonstrated against United Artists’ movie theaters, which were showing “The Replacements,” a movie about the Washington Football team’s (called Washington Sentinels in the film) 1987 season strike. The film falsely depicts the hero of the last game of the strike season against the Dallas Cowboys as a White quarterback (portrayed by actor Keanu Reeves), instead of having an African American actor portray the true hero, Tony Robinson, a Black quarterback who was the real hero during the actual game.
Since its founding the NBPC has written extensively about the issue of racial discrimination at the quarterback and head coach positions in the NFL. In its most recent publication on Sept. 14, 2022, the NBPC issued a comprehensive “Open Letter To NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell,” covering not only racial discrimination at the quarterback position, but also addressed racial discrimination pertaining to other issues. The NBPC demands are:
▪ For every White quarterback on every team, there must be at least an equal number of Black quarterbacks.
▪ At least 16 of the 32 NFL teams must have Black head coaches by the end of 2023.
▪ For every White man and woman hired as NFL broadcasters and sideline reporters, Black men and women must be equally hired. Barring last minute changes, FOX scheduled all White broadcasters and sideline reporters for the Super Bowl LVII.
The NPBC looks forward to these demands being met at least by the 60th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington on Aug. 28, 2023.