Onalaska, Texas, about 85 miles north of Houston, must be a remarkably isolated place — no television, no radio, no newspapers, no internet. How else could the schools superintendent — of all people — make such ridiculous comments about black people, specifically black professional quarterbacks?
Lynn Redden, superintendent of the Onalaska Independent School District, was frustrated by the ending of the Houston Texans’ 20-17 loss last week to the Tennessee Titans. The Texans’ quarterback, Deshaun Watson, mismanaged the final play. “That may have been the most inept quarterback decision I’ve seen in the NFL,” Redden, who is white, wrote on a Houston Chronicle Facebook page. “When you need precision decisionmaking you can’t count on a black quarterback.”
Mr. Redden, we’d like to tell you about two African-American NFL quarterbacks we claim as honorary North Carolinians. They’ve done quite well in the NFL (as have other African-American quarterbacks).
Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers was a landslide choice as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2016, when he led his team to the Super Bowl. He also won a national championship at Auburn. Russell Wilson, the former N.C. State player, is undersized for an NFL quarterback at not quite 5 feet 11 inches. Yet he was named Rookie of the Year and won a Super Bowl in 2014 for the Seattle Seahawks.
Newton and Wilson are good leaders and good decisionmakers who have the respect of their teammates and peers in the league. Quarterback is an exceptionally demanding position, mentally and physically. Newton and Wilson have been starting quarterbacks since they entered the league as very young men, a sign that their coaches recognized from the beginning they were talented and had strong leadership ability.
Redden deleted his Facebook post. When contacted by the Chronicle, he said he regretted his comment. But of black quarterbacks, he also said, “Over the history of the NFL, they have had limited success.”
The black quarterbacks in the NFL probably couldn’t care less about Redden’s comments. But the children of superintendent Redden’s district are a different matter. According to the Washington Post, only 1 percent of children in that district are African-American. That’s beside the point. Are the children of Onalaska to believe that some careers are not open to them because they lack “precision decisionmaking”?
Our challenge is not to stereotype young people by race, ethnicity or gender but to help them see the possibilities — that all careers are open to them if they study hard, work hard and do their best. This is the promise of America, and on this promise we must deliver.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER