The Unforgivable Blackness of Dak Prescott

During the 2016 NFL Season, Dak Prescott the Rookie QB for the Dallas Cowboys has:

Broken Tom Brady’s NFL record for passes without an interception,

Troy Aikman’s rookie records for passing yards, touchdowns, and wins,

Beaten Two time Superbowl Champion Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh,

Beaten Super Bowl Champion Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau field,

Broke the Dallas Cowboys record for consecutive wins,

Broke the Dallas Cowboys rookie record for wins,

Became the First Dallas Cowboy Rookie to lead a team to the playoffs,

And has lead the Dallas Cowboys to an incredible 11–2 record in the first 13 games of the season.

Still for many critics this is not enough.

Dak Prescott has received praise for his play from Hall of Fame legends such as Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, and Brett Favre. However Prescott has also received a peculiar and logically inconsistent type of criticism from the sports media.

Hailing from Mississippi State University, Dak’s rise as a NFL star seemed very unlikely. Prescott was taken in the 4th round of the NFL draft. He began the season as the 3rd string QB for the Cowboys. However after Kellen Moore and Tony Romo both suffered severe injuries Prescott was thrown into the spotlight in one of sport’s most coveted positions, starting Quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

In 2015 longtime Cowboys starting QB Tony Romo suffered two injuries that caused him to miss all but 4 games and the Cowboys went 4–12. However in 2016 when Romo went down to injury again, Prescott’s preseason play led many to believe that he could possibly keep the Cowboys in contention until Romo’s return.

Prescott demolished all expectations and has out shined all of the quarterbacks drafted ahead of him.

While few have taken Prescott down during his record breaking rookie season, the media has done its best to make sure every success of Prescott is undermined and that every misstep is amplified.

When Prescott led a fourth quarter comeback against the Washington Football team in D.C. critics said his true test would be playing in prime time pressure against the Bears.

After beating the Bears and leading a comeback win against the 49ers critics said the real test would be against the Bengals.

When Prescott led the Boys to victory against Cincinnati, critics said he wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of beating Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau field. The Cowboys won 30–16.

When Dak Prescott threw the game winning touchdown to beat the Eagles led by first round rookie QB Carson Wentz in overtime one of the headlines the next day read: Carson Wentz has the brightest future, but Dak Prescott is the most compelling NFL rookie. Because the media had to assure us that this Dak Prescott was just an apparition. Not to worry, the natural (white) order of things will sort themselves out.

As the season unfolded Prescott continued to break records, leading a season high four 4th quarter comebacks. The media scrambled to change the narrative about the rookie sensation. Some argued that Dak was no longer “a rookie”, that the experience he had gained disqualified him from that label. Others said Dak was a merely a game manager that had the luck of having the best running back in the league, and the best offensive line in the league, even though the Cowboys had the same all star offensive line in the 2015 season where they went 4–12. His QBR (which is second only to Tom Brady) had nothing to do with his skill.

Anytime there was positive praise for Prescott there seemed to be a stream of undermining language from sports writers and pundits salivating for his fall.

After losing the first game of the season by 1 point the Prescott led Cowboys were able to put together an amazing 11 game victory streak.

Then Sunday December 10th, A date that will live in infamy came. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys were blown out by the New York Giants. Well at least that is how some fans and sports writers have responded. The actual score was Giants 10, Cowboys 7.

The game certainly wasn’t Dak’s best showing of the year as he threw one touchdown and two interceptions (one of which was a result of Dez Bryant falling down). But Eli Manning of the Giants had a similarly rough night with just one TD, two fumbles and an interception. Simply put both defenses played exceptionally well.

The media pounced on the opportunity to stir the pot. Towards the end of the game cameras kept panning to Romo. After the game cameras showed Romo and Manning greeting each other after the game, like the good ole days.

The calls for the return of Tony Romo (an athlete that hasn’t played a full game since 2015 and a player that has been injured twice in the last three games he started) were immediate. It didn’t seem to matter what Dak had done to this point.

Any person of color that has grown up conscious of both visible and invisible racism in America is aware that there is indeed a double standard when it comes to performance.

In the year 2000 Disney released the film Remember to Titans about a racially divided town that chose a man of color Herman Boone to coach the newly integrated and racially divided high school football team. After Boone (played by Denzel Washington) is hired he is informed that the school board would fire him at the first sign of trouble. When asked what that meant he was informed that losing one game would be considered trouble.

For many Cowboy fans of color this season, as amazing as has been, has felt eerily like a sequel of Remember the Titans. Each win is not so much an achievement as it is as it survival. Each game feels like a sudden death match for Dak.

Sure there is a certain media lust to find the downside of any celebrity’s or rising stars life. But there is a well honed art that the American media harnesses to attack athletes and entertainers of color through the years. A certain ferocity that is applied to Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, and Serena, while the Ben Roethlisberger’s, Riley Cooper’s and Josh Brown’s of the world received minimal scrutiny if that for much more heinous offenses (accused of rape, racism, and spousal abuse respectively).

Some may say that my assertions are not fair that I am only speculating that racism plays a role in the way that Prescott is being treated. You can argue that both RGIII and Michael Vick were both heralded as rookie quarterbacks. You would be correct to point out that other QBs of color have been widely heralded. But if you use Vick or RGIII as an example you would be missing one of the finer points of institutional racism.

Even though the NFL is primarily comprised of men of color, the positions of head coach and quarterback have been dominated by Caucasian males. The Tom Brady’s and Peyton Manning’s of the world have been praised for their intelligence, ability to read the defenses, the way that they study the game while players like Dez Bryant, Zeke Elliot, and Adrian Peterson get called “a Beast” when they make a great play!

The programming is clear Caucasian athletes succeed because of their superior work ethic and intelligence while athletes of color are just blessed with primitive physical ability.

America has never has a problem praising the physical prowess of men of color. It was easy to praise RGIII and Vick because as “running quarterbacks”, they did not challenge the narrative of European intellectual superiority.

But Dak Prescott is Different. He is not primarily a running quarterback. He rarely throws deep passes. In many ways you could call his style boring. He is poised, reading the defenses until he finds a receiver and uses his ability to read defensive packages to pick the opposition apart. Add to that, he is not just a rookie QB starting for a team tied for the best record in the league, he is now the face of America’s team. And as we all know some people can’t stand for the face of an American brand to be melanated.

I wish there was some other reason to explain why Dak Prescott is being treated the way he is. But the only logical conclusion is that this man has so damaged the myth of white intellectual superiority that he must be stymied now. How else can we explain such a widespread outcry for a 11–2 rookie QB to lose his job? The hate isn’t always subtle either.

Last week Jerry Jones, the actual owner of the Cowboys, went on record wishing in so many words that Dak Prescott would get hurt so that Romo could return.

People of color in America understand full well the curse of doing all the work while someone else gets to step in and receive the trophy. The calls for Romo’s return aren’t really about Tony Romo’s superior experience. This is about branding. And for many a young, poised, cerebral, brother winning a super bowl or coming close to it would be too much, it would be unforgivable.

So the pressure will continue to mount and the vultures will circle. Every three and out, every overthrown pass, every interception is evidence that Dak is not good enough, even when he pulls off the win.

At the beginning of the NFL season it looked as though Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest of police brutality would be the biggest cultural statement made by a player of color this season. We were wrong. The biggest statement has been made by Dak Prescott because the only thing that undermines racism more effectively than calling it out is success in an arena where society doesn’t want or expect you to have it.

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