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Shannon Sharpe Blasts Russell Wilson for Saying He ‘Opened Up’ Doors for Black QBs



Russell Wilson Steelers Quarterback

During his exclusive interview with Essence, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson expressed that he opened a lot of doors for Black quarterbacks across the sport. Wilson was the second Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, following Doug Williams who was the first in 1987. Williams was also named Super Bowl MVP for leading Washington to a 42-10 win over Denver in Super Bowl XXII.

“For me to be able to go to back-to-back Super Bowls, and win one of them, I think opened up a lot of doors,” Wilson said. “Now you see guys like Patrick Mahomes who won it; it’s really just us so far, but there’s more to come. The emergence of quarterbacks like Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson and C.J. Stroud, to name a few, is indicative of a new era in football and a glimpse into what the sport is trending toward.”

For decades, there have been negative and unfair stereotypes surrounding Black quarterbacks. Often praised for their athleticism and criticized for not grasping the technicalities of the position as a pure passer. People calling two-time League MVP Lamar Jackson a glorified running back is a prime example.

Of the 32 quarterbacks who started in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season, a record 14 were Black. That number is up from 11 in 2022, and it doubles the seven from 2002. Super Bowl LVII was the first Super Bowl to feature two starting Black quarterbacks — Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts.

“What I love to see is guys getting drafted early, and that a lot of teams these days have Black quarterbacks playing for them,” Wilson continued. “It’s all across the league, and it’s showing how the National Football League is starting to evolve, change and break down barriers. I think one of the biggest blessings of my career so far is that I’ve been fortunate to be able to open up doors for others, because of what others did for me.

“I think about those guys before me, but when I came into the league, there were only a few of us. It was Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, myself and a couple others.”

Former NFL tight end and Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe is appalled by Wilson acting like he was a trailblazer for Black quarterbacks, however.

“So what role did Doug Williams play? The first African-American quarterback to actually get to and win the Super Bowl and win MVP,” Sharpe said on the Nightcap Podcast with former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson. “So what about Shack Harris? What about Joe Gilliam? So what did Marlin Briscoe do? Jack Harry? Steve McNair? They opened no doors? Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick? It was you?

Sharpe brings up a good point with Wilson not acknowledging some of the past Black quarterbacks who opened up doors by name. To his credit, Wilson did state that “I’ve been fortunate to be able to open up doors for others, because of what others did for me.”

It probably wasn’t intentional, but Wilson could have elaborated more on what Doug Williams and Warren Moon and others have done for Black quarterbacks. Johnson thinks Wilson was solely referring to the modern day era of Black quarterbacks.

“I think moreso for Wilson’s sake, he was speaking on behalf of the modern day era,” Johnson told Sharpe. “Younger kids, younger generation. A generation that probably won’t know about Doug Williams, the Steve McNairs, the other quarterbacks you named that were Black that you’ve named. The kids in today’s era might not recognize or know about them. So I think, in a sense, Russell Wilson was speaking on behalf of his era and the era of younger generation kids that are playing now.”

Sharpe got Johnson’s point, but still thinks Wilson was out of touch by not acknowledging the Black quarterbacks before him in detail.

“I just don’t know what he was trying to accomplish. By saying what he said,” Sharpe said. “He opened doors? Huh? No, it was guys who came before you who had success who opened doors for you?”

To Johnson’s point, Wilson is a player that Justin Fields always admired. Gene Chamberlain of Bears Digest noted that Fields once told the Chicago media that he tried to pattern his play after Wilson.

“I would say when I was younger, like maybe eighth, ninth grade, it was more Cam Newton,” Fields said a day after he was drafted. “But I would say these past couple years I’ve kind of turned more to a Russell Wilson-type quarterback.

“I’ve watched a lot of film on him. I’ve watched a lot of highlights on him, so I think the things that we can do on the field with both of those quarterbacks, I think we have a lot of similarities between extending plays with our legs and also having the arm talent.”