Racial stereotypes affect the public’s perception of NFL quarterbacks and may, in some cases, become a self-fulfilling prophecy for black athletes, new CU Boulder research shows.
Two recently published studies authored by Patrick Ferrucci, an assistant professor in the College of Media, Communication and Information (CMCI), suggest that unconscious racial bias, propagated in part by sports media, still influences how the public views the quarterback position.
“We are all aware of the stereotypes that are out there in the discourse—it’s almost unavoidable,” said Ferrucci, who co-authored both studies with Edson Tandoc of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “In these two studies, we were looking to see if people actually apply them, and the answer is yes.”
Previous research has suggested that certain words and phrases used in sports media often carry implicit racial bias. Black athletes are more likely to be described in terms of natural ability and strength while white players are more likely to be described through the prism of intelligence and effort. Sociological research has also indicated that members of a given group are more likely to think of their own membership as diverse while thinking of other groups as homogenous, a phenomenon known as social identity theory.
In the first study, published in the Howard Journal of Communications, the researchers recruited both white and black college students and asked them to rate paragraphs and photos of either black or white pro quarterbacks based on four stereotypical descriptors: physical strength, natural ability, leadership and intelligence.