Race and the Evaluation of
Signal Callers in the National
David J. Berri
Southern Utah University
Until recently, the position of quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) was
not an option for Black athletes. Today, many teams use Black quarterbacks, a
development that might suggest race is no longer relevant when it comes to the
evaluation of signal callers in the NFL. By modeling quarterback performance and
salary over 1995-2006, we find that Black quarterbacks are more likely to run with
the football, yet this skill is not compensated in the market. Furthermore, we find
evidence of performance-related salary discrimination against Black quarterbacks in
the top half of the salary distribution.
quarterback; salary; race; discrimination
lthough numerous studies have been offered examining discrimination in pro-
fessional team sports like baseball and basketball, there is little a priori evi-
dence that discrimination remains a problem in these sports. Consequently, it is
not surprising that much of the recent research on the topic offers very mixed results
with respect to the subject of discrimination. Depending on the issue examined and
the methodology used, studies have found evidence of discrimination against
or no discrimination at all.
The story of professional football is different. Specifically, Black quarterbacks
have historically been a relatively rare occurrence in the National Football League
(NFL). The first was Willie Thrower, who threw eight passes for the Chicago
Bears on October 18, 1953. These were the only eight passes Thrower ever
It was not until 1968 that Marlin Briscoe became the first starting
Black quarterback, leading the Denver Broncos of the American Football League.
By the end of the 1993 season, only eight Black quarterbacks had ever received
significant playing time in the NFL. Only in the mid-1990s, Blacks began to make
substantial progress at this position. This marked, as Table 1 indicates, the first time
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