Ex-NFL Linebacker: We Talk Around Race, Not About It

The discussion of race in the league just serves to distract from why players misbehave.

Ray Stubblebine/AP Photo

Editor's Note: Carl Banks is a former NFL linebacker.

On Wednesday, a report surfaced that a rift has developed inside the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks’ locker room  — purportedly due to a certain segment of the team’s players being of the belief that quarterback Russell Wilson is not “black enough” for their liking.

In a society as race-crazy as ours, this sort of news is equal parts shocking and unsurprising. And — rumor or genuine story — it’s not worth anyone’s time or consideration.

In my 12 seasons as an NFL player, no one ever accused me of not being black enough. No one ever questioned my blackness because I had attained my undergraduate degree in communications from Michigan State University. No one accused me of being a sellout when I chose to invest my intellectual capital wisely, laying the business groundwork for my successful transition to life after football. And though there were undoubtedly those in my locker rooms who felt that way about me — players who occupied the same real estate as Percy Harvin and Marshawn Lynch, if they, in fact, do question Wilson’s blackness — no one dared say it to my face, or leak it to the media.

There is no litmus test for racial “legitimacy.” The only thing these “tests” reveal is a window into the foolish psyche of whomever applies them.

Unfortunately, discussions about race and the NFL are rarely nuanced and are usually counterproductive. Fans, pundits, and even players themselves regularly squander the chance to discuss race in meaningful ways. We are trained to talk around race, rather than about it, so we end up talking about “racial legitimacy” instead of deeper, real issues — like why the league’s perceived crime issues are viewed heavily through the lens of race.

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