Colorful Language

by brianpkibler

The NFL draft is upon us. It’s a time of uncertainty. Rumors swirl, talking heads speculate, and Don Banks pumps out mock drafts like Liam Neeson pumps out 2 star movies.  Teams flip flop on players, trade up and down, and guard their intentions.

But amidst all the ambiguity and doubt, we have one certainty to fall back on—Peter King’s subtly racist player evaluation.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to King. Not by a long shot. Any time you hear an analyst call white receiver Wes Welker a gym rat, you’re hearing subtle racism. Is Welker a workout fanatic? In all likelihood.

However, save for the rare exception, you have to be a fiendish worker to play professional football. Victor Cruz, Larry Fitzgerald, and Mike Wallace are probably “gym rats” too—but those same analysts focus on their freakish natural explosiveness.

The implication is that Welker achieved success through relentless work, but black players roll out of bed and run 4.3 forties.

While King certainly isn’t the only perpetrator, he was in rare form in his latest mock draft.

Compare his descriptions of white offensive guard David DeCastro and black defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

According to King, DeCastro is “nasty, efficient, mistake free.” His success comes from his willpower and intelligence.

On the other hand, King explains that Poe “has a chance to be…a freakishly talented interior force against the run and pass.”  In other words, Poe was born to play football—a natural who’s full of untapped potential.

The athletic difference between potential first round picks is marginal. They’re all tremendously gifted players. Even so, DeCastro and Poe’s combine numbers are unusually similar. Poe outweighs DeCastro by 30 pounds, and smoked him in the 40 yard dash (which is almost completely irrelevant to line play). But DeCastro toasted Poe by .6 of a second in the cone drill, and they clocked identical shuttle runs and measured the same vertical leap.

Contrary to King’s analysis, the players are athletically comparable.

Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff is another white player who’ll be selected in the first round. King hands him to the Chargers in his mock-up. He feels the pick is justified. Why?

“Reiff is a scrapper and a fighter in the tradition of Hawkeye linemen,” King writes.

Of course, Hawkeye offensive linemen are mostly white guys.

It gets worse. Stanford tight end Coby Fleener is a tremendous athlete. He’s 6’6” and 247 pounds. He clocked a 4.52 at the NFL combine—wide receiver speed—and he’s an excellent leaper.

That combination of size and speed isn’t learned. It’s inherent. Fleener is genetically designed to play football. But he’s also white, so King doesn’t characterize him as such.

“Jim Harbaugh likes smart, physical, versatile skill players…Fleener isn’t as athletic as Vernon Davis, but he did gain 17.8 yards per reception in his last two seasons for the Cardinal,” King wrote.

King only mentions Fleener’s athleticism to qualify it as inferior to a black tight end’s.

He uses the same loaded language when evaluating top linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly is big, swift (4.58 in the forty), and explosive (38 inch vertical leap).

In King’s own Monday Morning Quarterback column, he quotes Mike Mayock as saying Kuechly is “the best pass-dropping inside linebacker I’ve ever seen in college football.”

Pass coverage requires exceptional speed and agility. Nonetheless, here is King’s assessment:

“The all-time leading tackler in both school and Atlantic Coast Conference history is the perfect player for Kansas City G.M. Scott Pioli: whistle-clean character, great instincts. Kuechly isn’t overwhelmingly physical, though.”

Did Kuechly’s moral character propel him into the 4.5 range in the forty? Do white players work harder, care more, and understand the game better than black players?

Of course not. Peter King is just kind of racist.

*All combine numbers taken from CBS Sports