UPDATE SEPTEMBER 4TH 2021 : After eighteen years of NFL football without a single white cornerback, Troy Apke has officially ended the drought. Apke has been rostered by the Washington Football Team making him the first white NFL cornerback to play in almost two decades.
One topic that gets brought up online nearly every NFL season is the lack of white cornerbacks in the NFL. Despite this being the standard for quite a while fans seem to find the lack of representation at this position very interesting.
This article is going to look back at the history of white cornerbacks in the NFL. And attempt to get into some of the reasons why a white cornerback hasn’t started in this league for nearly twenty years.
When was the last time a white cornerback started in the NFL?
Many believe that the last white cornerback to start an NFL game was Jason Seahorn. He took his last snap as a cornerback in 2002. But the actual last white cornerback to start an NFL game was Kevin Kaesviharn. Kaesviharn started at cornerback for the Bengals from 2001-2003.
After the 2003 season, Kaesviharn was switched to the safety position. He started at the safety position for another 47 games before retiring. It is believed this position switch is why many do not know that he is the last white cornerback to start in the NFL.
Though, it is important to note there are other circumstances in which white cornerbacks played in the NFL but did not start.
Julian Edelman subbed in at the cornerback position when needed during the 2013 season. Since Edelman is primarily a slot receiver not many fans consider him to be a real white cornerback.
There are also a few other white players that have played limited snaps at corner but never started.
Why Are There No White Cornerbacks In the NFL?
The topic of why there is a lack of white corner is the NFL can be a touchy one. That being said below we are going to go over several reasons which may be responsible for the lack of white NFL players playing at this position.
The three main factors that could have caused this situation are as follows. Discrimination against black players in the past, lack of physical traits, and discrimination against white players.
Discrimination Against Black Players In The Early Years
One factor that may have led to the lack of white cornerbacks in the NFL is discrimination. This occurred when African Americans began to play the game of football. There was once a time in football in which black players were only able to play certain positions.
This meant they weren’t able to go out for quarterback or receiver, these players had to play less glamorous roles for the team. This meant white players could either pick a positon in which they only competed against white guys or they could pick cornerback and compete against white and black players.
This of course made it more difficult to make the team and earn a starting job. This naturally led to many professional black players playing the cornerback position. While white players rarely played this position at all.
This means if your father was a professional or if you watched football on tv you were already seeing positions based on race. An African American fan might be more likely to cheer for Deion Sanders while a white fan may see themselves in Troy Aikman.
This may be offensive to some people but the reality is you are more likely to try and emulate someone that is similar to you.
In short, people try to become what they know and for many black players growing up that would be a cornerback. And for white football fans a cornerback wasn’t a position they saw themselves playing.
Lack Of Physical Traits
In my personal opinion the most likely reason for the number of black cornerbacks versus white cornerbacks in the NFL is due to physical traits.
This is another topic that some may find offensive but it is virtually impossible to ignore in this conversation. Black athletes own every single running event record from the 100-meter dash all the way to the Marathon.
This is not a coincidence and should certainly be considered when thinking about white cornerbacks in the NFL.
Another physical trait that makes this position more suitable to black athletes is that they tend to have longer extremities. These longer extremities can be traced back to Sub-Saharan Africa as a way to reduce body heat.
This results in longer arms one of the most crucial traits for a cornerback to have.
Now all these points aren’t to say there shouldn’t be a white cornerback. Or this is the only reason there is not. But these differentiating traits should give you a better idea why there is a such a divide in the league.
Discrimination Against White Players
The other possible explanation for the lack of white corners in the NFL is discrimination. Let’s face it there hasn’t been a starting corner in the NFL in eighteen years. It is safe to say that when coaching staff or scouts see a white cornerback they may proceed with a bit of caution.
In fact, the last two white corners to start in the NFL both wore black arm sleeves while they played. Though one of the corners stated this was due to the weather. Jason Seahorn said he “wore sleeves for a reason”.
It is also worth mentioning that Seahorn himself, the player is popularly known as the last white cornerback. Had played safety until his college coach happened to walk in on him playing basketball.
It was in this basketball game that Seahorn’s coach noticed him rotating his hips, jumping, and cutting athletically. After seeing this his coach believed he could play corner. Which he continued to do until he became a starter in the NFL.
Could the lack of representation be causing white cornerbacks to not get a chance at the position?
Maybe, it isn’t all that unlikely that some players who would have done well at cb didn’t get their shot. But I believe that discrimination is not a major factor in the lack of white cornerbacks in the NFL.