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On Feb. 21, Lamar Jackson has yet to be signed by the Baltimore Ravens. He is now eligible to be franchise-tagged, a process which allows a team to pay a player well above market value for one year without attaching themselves long-term.
As the story of Kenny Washington, the first Black NFL player to integrate in 1946, inspires during the month of February, an even older story is told off the field about Black quarterbacks.
While Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes made headline news for being the first Black QB’s dueling in this year’s Super Bowl, the fact that it took over a century to occur speaks to the generational racist rigidity of team owners, coaches, and scouts who uniformly overlooked and bypassed qualified Black players.
Black quarterbacks in today’s game, while they are paid astronomical salaries much like their White counterparts, are still treated quite differently.
The NFL still has a race problem at the very top
As far back as 2011, then-Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson asked QB Cam Newton, “Did you get crazy after the draft and go out and get any tattoos or piercings?” according to an article in the Charlotte Observer. “Do I have to check you for anything?”
A decade later, in 2021, Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott was told to his face that he was “overpaid” by team owner and President, Jerry Jones.
In July 2022, In Arizona, QB Kyler Murray was publicly shamed by the Cardinals when a clause in his mega contract was leaked. The clause, which was later removed, required Murray to study more, an anachronistic stereotype steeped in racism.
Lamar Jackson is telling the Ravens ‘yesterday’s price is not today’s price’
According to Andscapes’ William C. Rhoden, author of $40 Million Slaves: “this isn’t about play-by-play and X’s and O’s. It’s about a young man, a young Black man, who knows his value.”
In March 2022, Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson reset the inflation-proof QB market with a mountainous fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract featuring a $44.965 million signing bonus. Multiple reports have stated Jackson is seeking a similar contract — if not better.
Jackson, having accomplished more in the league than Watson without any of the controversy included, previously turned down a 5-year extension worth over $250M with $133 guaranteed.
As the second unanimous MVP in NFL history and the youngest (23) quarterback to ever win the award, Jackson is highly unlikely to accept the Ravens franchise tag, setting up a series of scenarios which swing from Jackson sticking with the team and re-negotiating all the way to him being traded away entirely.
Whatever the result, he and his mother continue to represent his interests, and negotiate a price befitting a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Action Jackson.