It has been six years since the last of its kind was spotted. The last reported sighting was on field turf in urban St. Louis. The seldom seen white cornerback remains secluded. Some would even say the rare species no longer exists.
When former NFL cornerback Jason Sehorn retired from the St. Louis Rams in 2003, little did we know it would be the last time professional football fans would witness a white cornerback.
Although Sehorn played his final game a few years ago as a safety, he was truly the last full time white cornerback to man the position in a league focused on equality.
Equality is something the NFL has strived for in recent years. In 2002, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney spearheaded the NFL Committee for Workplace Diversity. Designed to promote diversity in coaching and front office positions, the committee instituted a policy that is now known as the “Rooney Rule." The rule calls for one minority candidate to be interviewed for every vacant coaching or executive position in the NFL.
The policy worked as planned, as the number of minority coaches in the NFL jumped from six percent to 22 percent in a five year period.
But the word “equality” is often used as a matter of convenience, rather than its true meaning. If the NFL truly wants equality throughout, it has to be a two way street. The league encouraged (albeit, not publically) teams to give more African-American quarterbacks a chance in the early 1990’s. Today, nearly a third of all starting or reserve quarterbacks in the league are African-American.
So when does the push come from the league to encourage teams to give white cornerbacks a shot?
With the exception of a handful of shut down cornerbacks the league has to offer, there are very few who play the position at a high level week after week.
The white cornerback is not fast or quick enough. They lack the make-up speed or leaping ability to excel at the position. Stereotypes college/NFL coaches and general managers have developed over time.
It all sounds very similar to the stereotypes which often accompanied budding African-American quarterbacks; they aren’t smart enough, they don't work hard enough, they aren’t good leaders.
With the cornerback play in the NFL in recent years, one would think half the league’s corners were drafted from college track teams rather than football squads.
Give me former Redskins cornerback 5’9” Pat Fischer, over current rookie corner Kevin Barnes any day. Fischer, who probably ran a 4.7 40-yard dash at best could cover the likes of former Eagles receiver 6’7” Harold Carmichael and former Olympic star turned Cowboy receiver, Bob Hayes.
Although speed is an important aspect of the game, a hard-nosed knowledgeable athlete is hard to pass on. One who is willing to stick his helmet in an opponent’s chest, should be preferred over a track star whose ideal method of tackling is to dive at the feet of a receiver.
Now this isn’t a cry for the NFL to change its rules or open the flood gates for white cornerbacks in the league, but find a few out of the estimated 50 or 60 million white males between the ages of 20-35 in North America and make equality truly equal.