Caste Football Takes Up the Cause of White Athletes

The folks behind this website argue that whites are shut out of key positions in sports. Sound familiar?

Danny Woodhead (left) and Wes Welker of the New England Patriots
(Jim Rogash/Getty Images; Al Bello/Getty Images)

By Deron Snyder

Have you noticed that NFL linemen tend to be very large, while NBA centers are invariably very tall? And marathon runners are usually slender, while jockeys stand short? The only shock about those observations would be if someone failed to notice. You can't watch football or basketball without picking up on the participants' physical profiles. There's nothing subtle about 7-footers or 380-pounders, and we're totally comfortable pointing out their size because there's a direct correlation to their job requirements.

However, discussions become much thornier when we highlight a distinction that has nothing to do with the task at hand and yet stands out just as much or more: skin color. Some of the most glaring examples -- say, the scarcity of African Americans in the NHL and Major League Baseball -- can be explained as purely cultural coincidences. Black youths simply don't play that much hockey or baseball; consequently, not many grow up to be pros in those sports.

But if we highlight the scarcity of white halfbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs in the NFL (or white players in the NBA, period), the discussion gets more complicated. Tens of thousands of white kids play football and basketball, from youth leagues to high school and through college. So our conversation takes an awkward turn, with stereotypes and preconceptions battling reason and logic for supremacy. As the late tennis great Arthur Ashe said in the 1989 NBC News special Black Athletes -- Fact and Fiction, the issue of race in sports is "a sociological red button."

The folks behind the Web site Caste Football don't just push the button. They mash it in and hold it, over and over again. They clearly don't subscribe to author Jon Entine's 1999 book, Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It. In fact, Caste Football boasts that it "looks at the racial dynamics of football and of sports in general. We have no sacred cows we worship, no taboo subjects we won't discuss."

It should be noted that Caste Football appears to be associated with white nationalism. The site lists two "affiliates," the Northern Voice bookstore and the American Nationalist Union, the latter of which is linked on the American White Pride Network. Caste Football apparently has a broader agenda, tapping into overall white resentment and aiming it at black domination in sports. So while it may be true that white athletes are steered to certain positions, Caste Football's motives are highly suspect, with a belief system that appears to be downright racist.

Nonetheless, I understand why some white folks lament the NFL's lack of white halfbacks, receivers and defensive backs while championing the select few that exist. That's kind of like black folks complaining about the NFL's lack of black quarterbacks while cheering on the handful who make it.

I certainly also understand the sense of pride that (white) New England Patriots halfback Danny Woodhead generated with his breakout game against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Likewise, I understand why (white) New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker fosters the same feeling. I'm sure that Woodhead and Welker are inspirations to every young (white) football player who is being conditioned to believe that certain positions at the major-college or NFL level are beyond his capabilities.

There's no secret about why so few blacks have played quarterback in the NFL over the years: They've been denied opportunities because of a presumed lack of intelligence, poise, leadership and discipline. Not coincidentally, the same presumptions have slowed black advancement in the corporate world and other hierarchies, too, where management can hide racist beliefs behind nebulous claims that a candidate lacks the necessary "intangibles."

Sport isn't perfect, but it relies on tangible measures and a merit-based system far more than most arenas. All things being equal, the biggest, strongest, fastest and most skilled players make the team and claim the starting positions. So if there are few white players at halfback, receiver and defensive back in the NFL, isn't it because they've been beaten out by better players? Don't white halfbacks, receivers and defensive backs get fair chances to compete, opportunities that black quarterbacks have rarely enjoyed?