ESPN Presents Year of the Black Quarterback Television Special as Part of Black History Month

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ESPN Presents Year of the Black Quarterback Television Special as Part of Black History Month

One-hour program highlights The Undefeated’s season-long series on the emerging prominence of black quarterbacks in the NFL

Following the success of The Undefeated’s season-long digital series on the emerging prominence of African-American quarterbacks in the National Football League, ESPN will present a one-hour Year of the Black Quarterback television special on Sunday, Feb. 9, at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN App (re-airing on ESPN/ESPN App at 8 p.m.).

Produced by The Undefeated, ESPN’s content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture, Year of the Black Quarterback (#YOTBQB) is a signature programming initiative for ESPN during Black History Month. The Undefeated senior NFL writer Jason Reid, who has penned multiple stories in the digital series, will host the special.

The #YOTBQB television special will explore the changing face of the NFL quarterback position, 50 years after Marlin Briscoe was drafted into the NFL as the league’s first black quarterback. While African-American quarterbacks lacked opportunity for decades, Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray and electrifying players like Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, and Deshaun Watson are now among the many prominent black starting quarterbacks throughout the league.

“Black quarterbacks are redefining the NFL’s marquee position, creating a level of excitement and possibility that is thrilling for the game,” said Kevin Merida, ESPN Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated. “In the process, they have become high-profile examples of black men excelling as leaders in an elite corner of the American workforce, a development that adds significance to their rise outside of the realm of sports.

“For The Undefeated, it was important to rigorously chronicle this moment, and to produce this special.”

The #YOTBQB special will examine the NFL’s history of black quarterbacks – the pioneers, the on- and off-field leaders, activism and more. Key themes:

  • The Evolution of the Black QB: Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes leads a group of elite black quarterbacks who have achieved stardom, marking a significant change in the NFL. The Undefeated’s award-winning columnist Bill Rhoden, author of Third and a Mile: The trials and triumphs of the Black Quarterback, examines the evolution of African-American franchise quarterbacks in the NFL.
  • The Rise of Lamar Jackson: The Ravens’ Jackson was the 2019 NFL MVP by unanimous vote while playing a unique brand of football. Why did so many doubt whether the former Heisman Trophy winner could adapt to the pro game? ESPN NFL Insider Josina Anderson reports on Jackson’s journey and how this isn’t a surprise to those who know him best – and how his success is changing how the league views quarterbacks in general.
  • My Journey: Geno Smith (Seahawks) shares his personal experience of what it’s like to be a black quarterback — including battling stereotypes, the adversity he faced when taking over for Eli Manning in New York and overcoming the historical barriers backup black quarterbacks have faced.
  • The Kaepernick Effect: An essay on Colin Kaepernick, including the cultural impact of the former 49ers quarterback’s exile from the NFL and his lasting influence on athletes speaking out for social issues.
  • Revolutionary Coaches: Few outside the league know that behind many of today’s top QBs are a pair of African-American quarterback specialists – Quincy Avery and George Whitfield.
  • The Evolution: Legendary black quarterbacks Warren Moon, Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick discuss their respective NFL journeys and their pioneering roles for current black quarterbacks.

A roundtable discussion featuring Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, quarterback specialist Quincy Avery, former Giants WR and ESPN analyst Victor Cruz, NFL agent Kristen Campbell, as well as Anderson, Reid and Rhoden, will conclude each segment.

The television special culminates The Undefeated’s “Year of the Black Quarterback” (#YOTBQB) season-long examination of the increase in African-American franchise quarterbacks. Entering the National Football League’s 100th season, Patrick Mahomes was the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player, the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson was the highest-paid player, and the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft – an unprecedented triad of NFL accomplishments shared by African-American quarterbacks. Highlights of the 2019-20 digital series:

The Undefeated is ESPN’s multiplatform content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture. The digital hub, TheUndefeated.com, which launched in May 2016, combines innovative long-form and short-form storytelling, investigation, original reporting and provocative commentary to enlighten and entertain African Americans, as well as sports fans seeking a deeper understanding of black athletes, culture and related issues.

In addition to its cutting-edge content, The Undefeated seeks to be a thought-leader on race, sports and culture in the country – convening insightful forums to discuss and debate topical issues affecting sports and race in America.

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Mac Nwulu

I joined ESPN in 1998 and since then, it's been a great experience managing PR and communications for a range of ESPN initiatives and properties, including soccer, NFL and The Undefeated, ESPN’s site focusing on sports, race and urban culture and how they intersect.
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