The Stereotyping of Christian McCaffrey

Every once in a while something happens that tends to flip the world on its head. In a society where the vast majority of its inhabitants deny the existence of a particular phenomenon that affects the minority, it becomes worthy of note when a prominent member of the majority acknowledges how said phenomenon has negatively affected him. In this postulation the phenomenon in question is racial stereotypes, the prominent member of the majority of whom I speak is 2016 Heisman Trophy runner-up and Stanford University football standout Christian McCaffrey.

For college football fans McCaffrey has been a joy to behold and marvel upon. Standing 6-feet and weighing 200 pounds, McCaffrey is every bit of a stud running back and rightfully should be considered one of the best, if not the very best returning running back for the upcoming college football season. But there are a substantial number of people who believe he was the best all-around running back in the nation last year.

As a sophomore, he racked up an incredible 2,664 combined yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns, including 2,019 rushing yards while averaging six yards per carry. Tack on the 1,070 kick turn yards and 130 punt return yards and we have a player who broke Barry Sanders’ record for all-purpose yards with 3,496.

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Those numbers scream “playmaker” and “explosiveness”, but such words are rarely used on players like McCaffrey. Despite such earth-shattering numbers, Christian lost the Heisman to Alabama running back Derrick Henry, who tallied 1,986 yards and 23 TDs last season in setting a new SEC record.

In December, The Shadow League Editor-in-Chief Ali Danois penned a convincing argument as to why McCaffrey should have won the Heisman, and TSL contributor Terrell Starr discussed how race may have played a role in him being underestimated by Heisman voters, most of whom are white men.

To be certain, it is rare for a white American male to speak of how being white has placed him at a disadvantage and be correct in the assumption. But during a recent interview published in ESPN, McCaffrey did just that. Here’s what he had to say;

“When you read about white athletes these days and white skill possession receivers specifically, one word you’ll always find is tough,” McCaffrey told the publication. “You’ll rarely see explosive, athletic, stuff like that. … You get a little bit upset: ‘I ran the same 40 as this guy, and you’re calling him … .’ People do the eye test and underestimate me, so I do play with a chip on my shoulder.”

Christian’s father, Ed McCaffrey, concurred with his son’s assessment. “There are immediate stereotypes about a white running back who grew up in the suburbs of Colorado,” said Ed, a former All-American at Stanford who played 13 years in the NFL as a wide receiver with the Giants, 49’ers and Broncos. “When we’ve gone to camps or all-star games, he walks on the field and people look at him like he’s nothing.”

Stereotypes are never a good thing.  Imagine, a white guy concerned about people looking at him like he’s “nothing”.  Stereotypes are the lazy man’s attempt at making sense of the world. However, the McCaffrey’s are only parroting what prominent sports journalists such as ESPN’s Mike Wilbon have been saying for six months. Here’s what he had to say on the Dan Patrick Show.

Christian speaking out on how he feels that race is negatively affecting him is a good thing.  What he is going through is indicative of how when anyone is singled out based upon race, human decency, fair play and common sense suffer.

Lucky for McCaffrey it’s only his draft stock that is at stake, and not his life.

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