The Curious incident of the black NFL Kicker

Why have there been almost no black color NFL kickers?

post January 13, 2016


In among Sherlock Holmes’ most famous pieces the detective work, his attention to detail oriented him towards something that was missing:

Inspector Gregory: "Is there any other suggest to i m sorry you would wish to attract my attention?"

Sherlock Holmes: "To the curious event of the dog in the night-time."

Gregory: "The dog go nothing in the night-time."


Holmes: "That to be the curious incident."

Captured in the exchange above, Holmes classically stated that if Inspector Gregory’s theory of the crime were accurate, then plainly the dog should have actually been barking. However the dog never ever made a peep.

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I was reminded that this quote following a conversation my 16 year-old daughter and I had over the weekend about the relation between race/ethnicity and positions folks played football field, especially the kicker. Mine daughter and also I to be watching one NFL game and also the adhering to exchange take it place:

Sydney: i don’t want to seem racist, but it seems choose the offensive linemen are more likely to it is in white, however the men on defense are much an ext likely to be black. Is that true?


Me: that is for sure a genuine phenomenon. And also it is not racist to it is in observant and notification the pattern per se. Ns don’t know the precise figures, but it is definitely the situation that offensive linemen are relatively an ext likely to it is in white, however positions choose cornerback and large receiver and running earlier are much much more likely to be populated by people who are black. (See below for data from the 2008 NFL league break down of gyeongju by position).


Sydney: Is that because black people are faster?

Me: Now, indigenous a pc perspective, exactly how you framed that inquiry does border ~ above what some critics might think about to it is in racist. In fact, many academics question the legitimacy of entirety idea of gyeongju as a "real" category. Yet let"s put that aside and also let’s think about it because that a while. I think there is proof to indicate that, in ~ the really elite levels, individuals of african descent may have much more speed and quickness. Look for example, in ~ Olympic sprinters (see here). And when you look in ~ the distribution of black relative to white football player in miscellaneous positions ~ above the football field this delinquent gathers considerable support. For example, i think the place of cornerback more than likely requires the most all at once quickness and agility and also offensive linemen the least--their skill is much more in brute strength. There was a movie, White men Can’t Jump, the addressed this from a Hollywood perspective and also how it plays the end culturally top top the basketball court. But the case is plainly complicated due to the fact that there are lots of factors at work-related here.


Sydney: What carry out you mean?

Me: Well, look at quarterbacks. What perform you notice there?

Sydney: The quarterbacks seem to be greatly white.

Me: Why perform you think the is?

Sydney: i don’t know. Is that due to the fact that of racism?

Me: Racism definitely plays a huge part there. As soon as I was a kid in the early on 1980s, black color quarterbacks were simply appearing and also the factor was really simple. The quarterback is the position of strength on the field, and for a lengthy time in the 1960s and 70s, black kids were frequently not permitted to beat quarterback due to the fact that of racism. The was an altering in the 80s and has changed quite drastically over the past couple of decades, and also now we have guys like camer Newton and also Russell Wilson, who are few of the best QBs in the league. However still, many QBs are white and also I think racism, at the very least historically, is a an excellent reason. So ns think both racism and speed/quickness space both good hypotheses that offer potential in explaining the sample of differences. But actually points get even more complicated when we consider the most curious place of all once it pertains to race in the NFL, that of the kicker.


Sydney (thinking because that a bit): OMG…there space NO black color kickers!

Me: that is right. And I think over there is at this time only one black punter. (I was right, M. King)

We behavior to find the web for the statistics and also the size of the “missing black kicker” was even much more dramatic than I would have guessed. Jason Matthews analyzed this question, i beg your pardon he asserted “may it is in the most perplexing sports inquiry of all time”. Follow to his analysis, in the history of NFL there have actually only been five black placekickers. Matthews discussed that, since the league began, there have actually been 1,418 roster slots for kickers. Only 14 (less than 1%) of those roster slots have actually been organized by individuals who to be black. Think about that over that time duration approximately 50% that the NFL players have been black (currently the number is practically 70%). The numbers here are important dramatic, nearly unbelievable. Also, back there space a few more punters, castle are virtually as rare.


The numbers make it undeniable--there should be a very powerful force at job-related here. The question is, “What is it?”

Matthews himself goes through possible explanations:

1. Black athletes don’t want to beat kicker.

2. Kickers nothing get any type of respect.

3. Kickers don’t make great money.

4. Many kickers play soccer first, and also black persons are much less likely to play soccer.


5. Kickers are not important.

Matthews cases none of these hypotheses make any sense. The ends through the speculation the there is a “deep, hidden and perhaps subconscious agenda to store kickers white by players and coaches”. He admits this seems farfetched, but claims it is not the “worst theory”. Indeed, the title of the blog suggest that this might be the NFL"s last prejudice, and he is not the only one that has suggested this.


From whereby I stand, I see no evidence nor have the right to think of any conceivable reason for a subconscious agenda of folks in strength in the NFL (owners, coaches, legends of the game) come “keep kickers white”. As someone who emphasizes exactly how human investment and justification shape society which consequently shape action, my unified structure would predict that there is a system of justification in ~ young black athletic culture that is prejudiced against being a kicker and also thus greatly reduces invest in that position. The logic below is together follows: Athletic achievement in basketball and football have long been pillars of condition and success in black society (not only is this a stereotype and also known generally, it had actually a clear existence in countless of the inside city families I worked with in Philadelphia).


The problem was the kickers, even if they were acknowledged to be essential to the team and also to scoring, to be not viewed as “real” athletes. It would certainly follow, in regards to justification and investment, indigenous this the being a kicker would be then viewed as a “cheap” means to become a experienced athlete. Moreover, once the culture gets entrenched, then it i do not care self-reinforcing, such that folks associate race through one kind of position or another (i.e., the lack of function models and also stereotypes role to maintain the condition quo).

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Interestingly, I uncovered some proof for this idea in NY Times write-up from a pair of year back. In investigating the racial/ethnic disparities in the NFL, Rhoden reports:

Many African-American players eschew punting and also kicking due to the fact that it is not athletic enough. Claude Mathis, the coach in ~ DeSoto (Tex.) High School, stated he had to beg his best player to kick and punt. “Kids make funny of you once you’re a punter,” the said. “When you an athlete. Friend don’t desire to it is in labeled as punter or kicker; youngsters will make fun of you.”


When we see disparate outcomes in groups, countless folks instantly that prejudice must be the cause. However, i think the instance of the missing black kickers offers a clear instance that different outcomes have the right to arise because that something other than discrimination, due to the fact that the gyeongju discrimination hypothesis right here makes no sense. I would love come hear think from others about why castle think there space so couple of black kickers in the NFL.