Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport

By Michael Oriard | Go to book overview

6
FOOTBALL IN BLACK AND WHITE

Whatever the product the NFL was selling in the 1990s and early 2000s, it came predominately in shades of black. The commercialization and racialization of NFL football have proceeded hand in hand since the 1960s, as pro football's thrills have been disproportionately provided by African American players. The number of black players in the NFL increased from 12 percent in 1959 to 28 percent in 1968, 42 percent in 1975, and 49 percent in 1982, the last season that African Americans constituted a minority in the NFL. The black majority grew to 54 percent in 1985, 61 percent in 1990, and 68 percent in 1992, where it has more or less stabilized (fluctuating between 65 and 69 percent).1

The Miami Dolphins' Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick in the early 1970s made up the NFL'S last white glamour backfield, known for power and grit, not grace and speed (Mercury Morris provided the speed and received less credit). Since then, the runners providing most of the highlights on SportsCenterhave been Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson … the list could go on. White quarterbacks have continued to throw most of the long, arcing touchdown passes loved by NFL Films and fans alike, but the players on the receiving end have also been mostly black. For every Steve Largent, the ultimate white “possession receiver,” there have been several Harold Carmichaels, Art Monks, Jerry Rices, Michael Irvins, and Terrell Owenses. Players such as Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor, and Ronnie Lott even redefined the positions for the guys who make the crushing hits.

From such evidence it would seem obvious that the National Football League, along with the National Basketball Association, represents the abso-

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Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Creation of the Modern Nfl in the 1960s 10
  • 2: No Freedom, No Football 55
  • 3: The End of the Rozelle Era 95
  • 4: The New Nfl 140
  • 5: Football as Product 175
  • 6: Football in Black and White 210
  • Conclusion 250
  • Notes 259
  • Acknowledgments 309
  • Index 311
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