Superbowl Sunday: Why Aren't Black Men Leaders On The Field & The Boardoom?

Black Men Can’t Lead?

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.”