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Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America (Hardcover)
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A compulsively readable sports narrative by senior NFL writer for ESPN’s The Undefeated (now Andscape), Jason Reid, chronicling both the history of Black players in the NFL, such as Warren Moon, and the recent careers of groundbreaking Black quarterbacks, including Colin Kaepernick.
In September 2019, ESPN's The Undefeated website (now Andscape) began a season-long series of articles on the emergence of Black quarterbacks in the NFL. The first article in the series was Jason Reid's enormously popular, "Welcome to the Year of the Black Quarterback." The series culminated with an hour-long television program in February 2020, hosted by Reid himself. The Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America will expand on Reid's piece—as well as the entire series—and chronicle the shameful history of the treatment of Black players in the NFL and the breakout careers of a thrilling new generation of Black quarterbacks. Intimate portraits of Colin Kaepernick, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray feature prominently in the book, as well as the careers and legacy of beloved NFL players such as Doug Williams and trailblazing pioneers Marlin Briscoe and Eldridge Dickey. Reid delves deeply into the culture war ignited by Kaepernick's peaceful protest that shone a light on systemic oppression and police brutality. Fascinating and timely, this page-turning account will rivet fans of sports, cultural commentary, and Black history in America.
About the Author
Jason Reid was named senior NFL writer for The Undefeated (now Andscape), ESPN’s platform exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture, in January 2016, after serving as an NFL columnist for ESPN.com for a year. He joined ESPN in February 2015 as an NFL columnist and his work appeared on the NFL pages of ESPN.com. Prior to joining ESPN, Reid covered the Los Angeles Dodgers for the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Commanders for The Washington Post and was a general sports columnist for The Post. At Andscape, some of Reid’s NFL work includes The Puzzling Plummet of RGIII—an in-depth look at how former Commanders quarterback Robert Griffin III fell out of favor with the team; and enterprise reporting around the NFL’s support of social justice organization in the wake of players’ protests, and the ensuing discord among the players. In April 2017, Reid co-authored The NFL’s Racial Divide—a long-form investigation about the role that race plays in the construction of NFL rosters—which won the 2018 NABJ Salute to Excellence Award in the sports digital media category.
"American sport has always been a window into the complexities and contradictions of race in American life—and this is especially so with football. In many ways, race haunts the sport still. Jason Reid’s magisterial book chronicles the breaking of a particularly thick glass ceiling in the sport around the position of the quarterback. You will be amazed at what was assumed about “the black quarterback,” at what these men had to endure and overcome, and how all of that laid the foundation for the extraordinary success of Black quarterbacks today. If you were a fan of Doug Williams or Warren Moon or a fan today of Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, you will love this book. And if you want to better understand the vexed racial history of this country through the sport you love, you will find so much between these elegantly written and powerful pages."—Eddie S. Glaude Jr. Chair, Department of African American Studies at Princeton University
"The history of the quarterback is an overlapping history of sport, masculinity and popular culture. Yet so often the representation of this history has been as incomplete as a dropped pass on 3rd down. Jason Reid’s Rise of the Black Quarterback elevates the game, adding much needed substance, context and blackness to both historical and contemporary conversations about the most transcendent position in American sport.”—Dr. Todd Boyd a.k.a. “Notorious Ph.D.," the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of
"It's no longer a surprise to see a Black quarterback leading an NFL team on the field, but we're not far removed from the days when the most important position in the sport wasn't decided solely by talent. "Rise of the Black Quarterback" reminds us that in sport, as in society, we must understand and acknowledge the wrongs of our past to allow for equality and evolution in the future. You might know Mahomes and Jackson, but Reid's work proves you must also know Williams and Pollard to tell the full story of the NFL and the game of football."—Sarah Spain, ESPN Radio Host, TV Personality & Columnist<br>
"No American athlete has ever confronted and conquered more injustice than the Black quarterback, and Jason Reid, one of the nation's best sports journalists, is the perfect author to tell that tale. This book is tragic, triumphant, and essential in understanding how the Black quarterback dismantled vile stereotypes in changing the face of the game. An absolute must-read for any fan who cares about the history of the league and the resilience of the human spirit."—Ian O'Connor, four-time New York Times best-selling author of Belichick
"The Black quarterback is one of the most timely and timeless topics that crosses constructs in leadership, sports, society, and business. As a former Black center at the NCAA competitive level, Jason Reid's analysis is innovative and important in America's climate of diversity and inclusion. I encourage academic disciplines to adopt this book in management, sport business, sociology, psychology, sociology, history, cultural studies, and others."—Dr. C. Keith Harrison Professor of Business, Hip Hop and Sport College of Business,UCF
"The story of the Black quarterback has never been told with such depth, passion and compassion. In his enlightening new book, Jason Reid provides historical context, gets insights from those responsible for the position’s evolution and offers hope for where the game is headed based on the revolution that is occurring right now within football."—Michael Lee, Washington Post reporter
“Rise of the Black Quarterback is about more than just the changing face of the NFL. It’s about a shift in the power dynamic of America’s most popular sport, the young men leading that shift and those who helped paved the road they traveled to get here. Someday we may take for granted the difference between the way the NFL looks at the quarterback position and the way it used to. Fortunately, Jason Reid has given us a thorough and enlightening look at how, when and why this historically significant change finally took place.”—Daniel Garziano, ESPN
“Jason Reid has given us the definitive book on the prickly, uneasy, and ultimately triumphant relationship between the defining issue in American history and the defining position in American sports…. By the end, you will not only be impressed with these men, from James "Shack" Harris to Patrick Mahomes. You will root for them."—Seth Wickersham, ESPN Senior Writer and New York Times best-selling author
“Jason Reid is one of this country’s most fearless and intelligent journalists. He understands that issues that might be triggered by sports or athletes – like Colin Kaepernick’s stance against police brutality – have far more depth. There’s no scratch-and-sniff reporting or lazy narrative being pushed. Reid brilliantly uses facts, sources, relationships, nuance, and outright courage to explain how it’s football that’s had to evolve, not the qualified Black men who’ve always been able to play quarterback.”—Steve Wyche, Senior Correspondent, NFL Network
“The NFL journey of the Black quarterback is both an American tragedy and a soaring tale of perseverance through racism. In Rise of the Black Quarterback, Jason Reid writes the definitive, heart-wrenching account of dreams derailed, battles won and lost and, ultimately, a legacy of Black excellence that cannot be denied. It is a work of meticulous historical detail that transforms into catharsis, providing the perfect framework through which to view the growing number of Black franchise quarterbacks in today's game.”—Jerry Brewer, Washington Post sports columnist
“A growing number of Black quarterbacks are thriving in the NFL—but for years, that wasn't the case. In this meticulously researched book, Jason Reid chronicles the hardships and triumphs of the Black players who defied bigotry to play the game's premier position, reminding us that the history of football is also the history of America writ large.”—Mina Kimes, ESPN NFL analyst
“Jason Reid takes a deep and moving dive into the arduous journey of the Black quarterback. From Fritz Pollard to Doug Williams to Patrick Mahomes, Rise of the Black Quarterback leaves no stone unturned as Reid reveals the obstacles encountered by these men along their quests for equality and greatness, and the courage and grit that paved the way for their triumphs and impacts on society.”—Mike Jones, NFL columnist, USA TODAY Sports
“Often, Doug Williams leading the Washington Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XXII is pointed to as a watershed moment for Black quarterbacks in professional football. But as "Rise of the Black Quarterback" details so wonderfully, despite Fritz Pollard's success early in the 20th century, there were many men who came between Pollard and Williams who were denied the ability to even compete at the position, first because of an unwritten ban on Black players in professional football and then because of old ideas, rooted in racism, about the intelligence and leadership ability of Black men. As Jason Reid deftly shows, without Willie Thrower or Marlin Briscoe, there might not have been Williams, or today's superstars like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. "Rise of the Black Quarterback" is an essential history book for football fans.”—Shalise Young, National Columnist, Yahoo! Sports