As the NFL begins the 2020 season, the quarterback position looks a lot different than it has ever looked in league history.
For the first time ever, Week 1 of the NFL season will begin with 10 Black starting quarterbacks.
Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins and Tyrod Taylor will each be under center for their teams in Week 1.
It is a significant milestone that signals progress for the league and also comes at a time where Black Lives Matter and fighting against systemic racism and injustice is at the forefront of the country – which includes players from around the league using their platform to push the message.
But Black quarterbacks, in particular, have faced challenges within their own sport.
Watson, in a recent ESPN profile, went into great detail about what it means to be a Black quarterback and prejudice and challenges that come with it.
“To keep it real with you, I feel like whenever a Black quarterback speaks up, the outside world sometimes doesn’t think they’re educated enough to know what’s going on,” he said. “So in reality, they’re like, ‘Hey, y’all Black quarterbacks – shut up. Y’all don’t know what y’all talking about.”
Watson said he began to notice he was treated differently and had different expectations set for him when he was in high school.
“It goes back to being in a category that people put me in,” he said. “I just felt that I always had to do more, being a Black quarterback, because form things like recruitment to camps, I always felt like they labeled me and valued me a little less than the other guys, even if I was better – and everyone knew that. I always had to do more, and I’ve always felt that way…until this year.”
This past year saw Mahomes win a Super Bowl MVP and receive the highest-paid contract in the entire NFL – north of $500 million -- while Jackson won the regular season MVP as a dual-threat quarterback for the Ravens.
Watson also received a $160 million extension over four years, making him the second-highest paid quarterback behind Mahomes.
Mahomes and Watson will square off against each other in the season opener on Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium, where players on both teams are also expected to participate in a joint social justice protest.