Toby Gerhart Is In a Race He Can't Win

Kendrick MarshallCorrespondent IApril 21, 2010

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Toby Gerhart #7 of the Stanford Cardinal is tackled by Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Stanford Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Former Stanford running back Toby Gerhart is screaming racism, but like the boy who cried wolf, few are listening.

Earlier this week Gerhart told Michael Silver of Yahoo! that the color of his skin would likely determine where he would be selected during the NFL Draft instead of college stats or NFL Combine results.

“One team I interviewed with asked me about being a white running back,” Gerhart told Yahoo! “They asked if it made me feel entitled, or like I felt I was a poster child for white running backs. I said, ‘No, I’m just out there playing ball. I don’t think about that.’ I didn’t really know what to say.”

What should be said is how can a league be blatantly racist and have no one do anything about it?

Sure, white running backs, much like the American-born white NBA star, have been few and far between. But that does not mean an athlete who runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash should warrant his draft stock slipping due to the lack of melanin.

If it was a black running back making these comments...I'm just saying.

In his final year at Stanford, Gerhart rushed for 1,871 yards, 27 touchdowns and finished second in the Heisman race behind Alabama Crimson Tide sophomore rusher Mark Ingram. Stats like that would certainly make any NFL scout or general manager salivate about the prospect of filling on of the 52 spots with a talent such as Gerhart. 

However, in a competitive sports world where image and dollars are the ultimate bottom line, the 6'2", 235-pound rock of a man won’t get drafted ahead of highly touted Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. Spiller of course is faster, more agile and most importantly, black. That means he has to be better than Gerhart, right?

Oh, that’s right. White guys are too slow, not shifty enough and if you look at NFL history, Caucasians have not cut it when asked to run in front of the fullback instead of being the fullback. The stereotypes that ruled out African-Americans in the early days of the NFL from playing quarterback, middle linebacker or center are about to typecast Gerhart in our so called post racial society. 

While millions would love for the race card to no longer be played because it creates a division and tension among the masses, it’s not always easy to stray from the temptation when the dealer continually supplies them.

When it comes down to it, race will always be a factor sports and society no matter how much the desire exists to vanquish it into damnation.

Gerhart is more Mike Alstott than Brandon Jacobs. More John Riggins than Earl Campbell as far as comparisons go in the eyes of many.

To deny the notion that we all don’t instinctively compare an athlete by skin color would be lying to ourselves. And for pro sports leagues to make determinations and evaluations based on that same barometer signifies that we still have a long way to go in terms of race relations.

Gerhart is screaming race and the town has its collective ears closed.

White running backs in recent history

Peyton Hillis
The last white running back to lead his NFL team in rushing for the Denver Broncos in 2008.

Mike Alstott
Led the Tampa Bay Bucs in rushing in 1999 and 2001. He was also the last white running back to start in the Pro Bowl and be selected to the NFL All-Pro team.

Tommy Vardell

He was the last white running back drafted in the first-round.

John Riggins

The Former Redskins running back rushed for 1,000 yards five times during his career. Riggins was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.