Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon ripped the Arizona Cardinals for putting a so-called "homework" clause in Kyler Murray's contract, calling it a "slap in the face to all African-American quarterbacks."
"It's something we were always accused of back in the day when they didn't let us play," Moon told TMZ Sports. "That we were lazy, that we didn't study, that we couldn't be leaders, that we weren't smart. So all those different things just kind of came to the surface after we had put all that stuff to bed over the years and just because of this deal that's going on between Arizona and Kyler."
"So yeah, very embarrassing."
The Cardinals placed a clause in Murray's new five-year, $230.5 million contract requiring he put in at least four hours per week of independent film study outside team facilities. The requirement raised eyebrows around the league and with fans, leading to criticism of Murray's work ethic and widespread mockery on social media.
The Cardinals removed the clause amid the controversy.
"After seeing the distraction it created, we removed the addendum from the contract," the Cardinals said in a statement. "It was clearly perceived in ways that were never intended. Our confidence in Kyler Murray is as high as it's ever been, and nothing demonstrates our belief in his ability to lead this team more than the commitment reflected in this contract."
While the clause may no longer exist, the public damage to Murray's reputation is done. He addressed the media Thursday—a day after the team altered his contract—to express his own frustration with what he called a "disrespectful" narrative.
"I refuse to let my work ethic, my preparing, to be in question," Murray told reporters. "I've put in an incomprehensible amount of time and blood, sweat, tears and work into what I do, whether it's football or baseball. People can't comprehend the amount of time that it takes to do two sports at a high level in college, let alone be the first person to do it ever at my size. It's funny.
"But to those of you out there that believe that I'd be standing here today, in front of y'all, without having a work ethic and without preparing, I'm honored that you think that. But it doesn't exist. It's not possible. It's not possible."
There are a number of layers to this issue, starting with the fact that the Cardinals scored a massive own goal here. Even if they have concerns about Murray's film habits—no matter how valid they may be—there is almost no way for the team to prove he studied film on his own time, barring setting up a camera in his house and monitoring his activities. We're likely not talking about another JaMarcus Russell sting operation here.
Moon's point about the narrative surrounding Black quarterbacks—even as Black quarterbacks have soared to the top of the sport over the last decade—remains valid. Mike Sando of The Athletic recently ran a piece that included people in the NFL making veiled comments about Patrick Mahomes playing "streetball" and another defensive coordinator saying Lamar Jackson could never be viewed as a Tier 1 quarterback.
"He's so unique as an athlete and he's really a good football player, but I don't (care) if he wins the league MVP 12 times, I don't think he'll ever be a 1 as a quarterback. He'll be a 1 as a football player, but not as a quarterback," the defensive coordinator said.
Mahomes addressed the comments in a meeting with reporters last week, noting Black quarterbacks receive criticism not lobbed at their white counterparts.
"It always is weird when you see guys like me, Lamar, Kyler get that on them and other guys don't," Mahomes said. "But at the same time, we are gonna go out there and prove ourselves every day to prove that we can be some of the best quarterbacks in the league."