Black Men Can’t Lead?

Study shows stereotypes keep blacks out of leadership positions in sports and business

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Front view portrait of three mid adult businessmen and two mid adult businesswomen

Built to lead (Image: Thinkstock)

One of the most appealing characteristics of professional sports is the idea that there’s a meritocracy in place—the best players get to play. But one thing you won’t see amidst the pageantry this weekend as the New York Giants face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI is an African American taking the snaps.

While both teams boast elite starting quarterbacks, this coveted position has often eluded many black athletes—particularly at the professional level. As the field generals of the team, a study indicates that racial stereotyping is playing a role. And this same stereotype is what results in so few African Americans at the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy. Case in point, African Americans make up nearly 13% of the US population; but in 2009 only 1% of the CEOs of the largest 500 publicly traded companies were black.

In the study, published by the Academy of Management Journal, more than 600 sports news articles representing all 119 NCAA Division I colleges were analyzed. “We cast a fairly wide net and again what allowed us to do this was that, there are 80-plus white quarterbacks, there are 30-plus black quarterbacks, and so we really wanted to capture this phenomenon, and we wanted to do it at the highest level of college football,” says Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, a professor of organizational behavior at Duke University, and one of the two authors of “Explaining Bias Against Black Leaders: Integrating Theory on Information Processing and Goal-Based Stereotyping.”

Rosette adds that despite that the most recent Heisman Trophy winners, Robert Griffin and Cam Newton, are both African American quarterbacks. “We don’t believe this negates the aspect, because two superstars do not a trend make.”

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  • Warehouse 24&7

    Before anybody do the job at hand we have to ask ourself what we have to separate before we know organize first. I see it like credits add up know matter what profession as long as you lead in a way people start talking your language. But back to how black men can’t lead i know it’s not possible if the thought is not there and i (we) never thought about being a quarter back. Imprint factual story’s in then we will start to develop a awareness to success at a early age.

    • Lou

      Take a look at our affirmitive action President the guy is a diaster he has to read a teleprompter writtem buy a white guy.

    • johnny johnson

      to: warehouse24&7, you need someone to check your spelling. what you are saying does not make sense!

  • A RICH


  • Mega

    I remember the pride I felt when I saw 2 African American head coaches in the Super Bowl (Indianapolis vs. Chicago) a few years ago. That was exciting.

  • eas

    So, based on the analogies, excuses and prejudices explained in the article, how did Kenneth Chenault and Richard Parsons become “effective” CEOs in their respective professional fields? What’s the excuse for white CEOs of failed companies on Wall Street in the recent years? What if the next POTUS after Barack Obama is a U.S. naturalized citizen who happens to be a female Latina from Costa Rica? Or an Asian male? Or Arabic female?
    Bottom line: the black man will never, never, ever get respect, no matter how much of an outstanding job he does in business, sports, education, etc.

  • Midwestern Athlete

    In sports one of the ‘compliments’ thrown the white man’s way from our black brothers is terms like “he plays like a black man” or “he can dance like a black man”. As a white person I have always asked the following question: How would an African American feel if white people paid a “compliment” to a succesful black person in busines or in a leadership position by saying “he thinks like a white person” or he “talks like a white person”. All races can be succssful. Stop the stereotypes from all sides.

  • really?

    this article is ridiculous. the nfl is probably 80%+ black players, obviously GMs and college coaches have NO issue with race in this regard. the reason the leagues are 80% black players is because those are the best players, period. if one or two positions, ie QB, kicker, punter etc. have higher percentages of white players, its probably for the same reason, they just happen to make up the best players at that position. it has nothing to do with leadership. defences in both leagues have defensive captains who are the leaders, field generals and motivators of their side of the ball. this often goes to a rugged, intelligent, defensive player, often of which is black.
    as a white guy with plenty of friends of other races, i personally feel like its passive-agressive crap like this that makes racial problems worse, not better.

  • Karl

    Given that African-Americans (Blacks, if you prefer) have held/are holding the exalted positions of President, Secretary of State (twice), National Security Advisor, Attorney General, Governor, Congressman (many) , Senator (many), 4-Star General (many), Supreme Court Justice, and CEO of Fortune 500 companies, not to mention MVP of just about every major sport…and only comprise about 13% of the U.S. population, isn’t it about time we drop the “woe is me” mantra, and stop relying on affirmative action hand-outs??? NAACP, Black Enterprise, etc. continue to race bait, divide, and exploit issues that education, hard work, and personal responsibility will almost always overcome.