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TLC Nonfiction Review: Rise of the Black Quarterback: What it Means for America by Jason Reid

Title: Rise of the Black Quarterback: What it Means for America
Author: Jason Reid
Year published: 2022
Category: Adult non-fiction (sports)
Pages: 288 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)USA (OH, CA, NY)

SummaryIn 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.

Review: Let me start by saying I am not a football fan. I don't watch the games, I don't follow a team, I hardly know players' names. So why did I choose to read this book? I hoped (and was correct) that it focuses on the racism in the game and country and it's impact on the sport. And, I went to high school with Randall Cunningham, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1990s and early 2000s and I figured he would be in this book and that would be cool to read about. And it was.

The author is a journalist and this book started out as a series of articles, which I think makes it more accessible to the non-fan reader. It's narrative nonfiction, filled with interesting tidbits about life in America through the last 100 years, not just football stats and reminiscing about great plays. 

I learned about Fritz Pollard, the first black quarterback who, in the first seasons of the NFL shaped the game as a player and coach and was denied admittance to the Hall of Fame until after his death.

I learned about other quarterbacks who have shaped not only the game, but the attitude of other players, coaches, administrators, and fans. What a difficult road they took, integrating a sport that didn't want to be integrated, with players and fans who didn't want them there. 

This book is important in that it shines a light on something that many in this country would like to think is a thing of the past. But, think Colin Kaepernick. The man knelt in 2016 and was out of a job. He knelt for goodness sakes. I think anyone who is a fan of the NFL, college football, or football in general should read this book. And if you aren't a fan, read it and skim the football bits.

Challenges for which this counts: none


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