USA TODAY International Edition

Williams: ‘ Race always matters in America’

Ex- QB talks about lack of Black head coaches

- Mike Freeman

Washington exec and former QB Doug Williams speaks frankly about lack of diversity in coaching in new series, 28 Black Stories in 28 Days.

Editor’s note: During Black History Month, with the series 28 Black Stories in 28 days, USA TODAY Sports examines the issues, challenges and opportunit­ies Black athletes and sports officials face after the nation’s reckoning on race in 2020.

Doug Williams, the first Black quarterbac­k to ever play in a Super Bowl, and one of just a handful of Black team executives, is asked why the NFL still has a difficult time hiring Black head coaches. His answer is blunt, truthful and important to hear.

The Texans' David Culley was the lone Black coach hired this cycle while one of the most qualified of the candidates, Kansas City offensive coordinato­r Eric Bieniemy, who is in his second straight Super Bowl, wasn't.

“The answer is, you can almost directly draw a line through what happened on Jan. 6 ( when extremists attacked the Capitol), through the Black Lives Matter movement, to the lack of Black coaches,” Williams told USA TODAY Sports. “Who made the decision to let people riot at the Capitol when they could have been stopped? Why was Black Lives Matter declared violent when it clearly wasn't? Who

made the decisions not to hire ( more than one) Black head coach? There's a central theme to all of that.”

“What I mean is, systemic racism impacts every aspect of society. Systemic racism is why white rioters could do what they did without getting killed by police. Racism is why some people portray Black Lives Matter as violent when they're not. Racism also figures into the thinking of some owners when they're hiring head coaches. Racism is a part of all aspects of American life.

“The problem isn't the leadership of the league. I think ( Commission­er) Roger Goodell and ( executive vice president of football operations) Troy Vincent try their best. But their hands are tied. This is on the owners. There are some that apparently still have a difficult time getting past the skin color of a candidate. They are 32 entities and not all of them have open minds.”

As we enter Super Bowl 55 week, two stories about race and football again intersect: Kansas City quarterbac­k Patrick Mahomes is one of the few Black Super Bowl quarterbac­ks in history; and the other story is Bieniemy, one of the smartest minds in the game, again shut out of the head coach hiring cycle.

Williams is perfect to discuss both of these topics. He made history in Super Bowl 22 playing for Washington against the Denver Broncos. Following his playing career Williams started coaching and then became a front office executive. He's now the senior vice president of player developmen­t in Washington.

In the NFL, Williams is royalty. What he says matters. Many of you will agree, some of you won't, but the accuracy of his words is undeniable.

Williams was also asked if we've finally reached the point where we don't need to talk about quarterbac­ks being Black in the Super Bowl. Before the question is even finished, Williams politely rejects the premise. “We're always going to talk about race and Black quarterbac­ks because this is America, and race always matters in America.”

After Williams, teams eventually, if not slowly, opened their minds more about Black players as quarterbac­ks. He opened the door for Super Bowl throwers such as Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair and now Mahomes twice.

Jimmy Giles, who played with Williams when both were with Tampa Bay, and was inducted into the 2021 class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame, said in a recent interview that Black quarterbac­ks “owe a debt of gratitude to Doug because he changed the way … and the nation, as a matter of fact … saw black quarterbac­ks in this league.”

“There's not a day that goes by that I don't” think about his playing in the Super Bowl, Williams said in 2018. “Not for what it meant to Doug Williams but because it was about much more than Doug Williams. It meant a lot to a whole lot of other people. All the political angles, what people would say depending on what I did, I knew all of that going into the game. But I tried not to put myself above the team and make it all about Doug Williams.

“I realized that no matter what happened, I was going to be a part of Black history. For me, the best way to be talked about in Black history was for the team to win the game. I didn't want to be a part of Black history and get my ( expletive) kicked. That's why I always remembered the fact that the Redskins didn't bring me to San Diego just to show off their Black quarterbac­k. I went to San Diego as the Redskins' starting quarterbac­k. And I went there to win.”

Williams said the reason more Black quarterbac­ks are in the league now, and thus have more opportunit­ies to play in the Super Bowl, is because the mentality of teams changed. Frankly, ownership and front offices became less racist once they saw that Black quarterbac­ks could help them win.

“The mentality and beliefs about Black quarterbac­ks changed, somewhat, once Black quarterbac­ks started winning,” Williams said. “But we had to overcome a lot. We had to overcome all of the stereotype­s that didn't impact white quarterbac­ks.”

Williams did that and inspired others to do the same.

 ?? AMY SANCETTA/ AP ??
AMY SANCETTA/ AP
 ?? ELISE AMENDOLA/ AP ?? Doug Williams won Super Bowl 22 while quarterbac­king Washington.
ELISE AMENDOLA/ AP Doug Williams won Super Bowl 22 while quarterbac­king Washington.
 ?? COMMERCIAL APPEAL ?? Doug Williams: “We’re always going to talk about race and Black quarterbac­ks because this is America.”
COMMERCIAL APPEAL Doug Williams: “We’re always going to talk about race and Black quarterbac­ks because this is America.”

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