The five-year, $230.5 million contract recently signed by Arizona Cardinals star quarterback Kyler Murray contained an unusual “homework” clause that, amid public outcry, was later removed. Its initial inclusion was a reminder of the racist overtones Black quarterbacks have dealt with for years, and sadly, still do now.
Kyler Murray should have been on top of the world.
The 24-year-old has the kind of resume that few in the NFL accumulate in such a short period of time.
After being drafted first overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2019, he was chosen as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. From there, he was named to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2020 and 2021. His NFL start ranks among the best ever by a quarterback based on a number of key metrics.
There are three players in NFL history with at least 60 touchdowns in their first two seasons:— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 22, 2020
Dan Marino (70)
Cam Newton (62)
Kyler Murray (61) pic.twitter.com/lPEJUpf55L
Murray, who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and is expected to miss some practice time while in isolation, has found success at every level of play.
And yet there he was last week, in the middle of an impromptu press conference shortly after it was revealed that his five-year, $230.5 million contract contained a “study” clause requiring him to spend a certain amount of hours studying film on his own.
The blowback from the public was akin to Murray’s play—swift and decisive—as the Cardinals organization immediately went into damage control mode.
"After seeing the distraction it created, we removed the addendum from the contract," the Cardinals said in a statement. "It was clearly perceived in ways that were never intended. Our confidence in Kyler Murray is as high as it's ever been and nothing demonstrates our belief in his ability to lead this team more than the commitment reflected in this contract."
For that kind of money, the Cardinals are well within their right to spell out certain expectations for their franchise quarterback. But including a study clause for a quarterback at this level is insulting no matter how you look at it.
And it cuts even deeper for Black quarterbacks who for years have pushed back on the misguided, racially-tinted myth that they aren’t thinkers when it comes to the position.
It isn’t enough that Murray has won more games each season in the NFL, compared to the season prior. It isn’t enough that he has been honored and recognized as one of the game’s best young players. It isn’t enough that he’s doing this as a 5-foot-10 quarterback in the NFL, which leaves him little choice but to think the game through at a much higher level than his quarterback brethren.
"To think that I can accomplish everything I've accomplished and not be a student of the game and not have that passion and not take it seriously, it's disrespectful and almost a joke," Murray told reporters.
It’s a joke, but no one is laughing because what he has dealt with, sadly, so many of his Black quarterback predecessors also endured.
And it doesn’t matter how much growth the Black quarterback has made on the field. It’s the lack of growth in the minds of organizations that remain unchanged.
In 2006, Warren Moon became the first Black quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Despite a standout career at the University of Washington, Moon was undrafted. So he took his talents to Canada and became one of the Canadian Football League’s greatest passers ever before the NFL finally came calling. Moon is the only player ever to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the CFL’s Hall of Fame, too.
Murray’s plight isn’t nearly as bad as what Moon and so many other previous Black quarterbacks endured.
That’s what makes this so sad on so many levels for so many people.
Whether the Cardinals intended to do so, they have openly questioned Murray’s intellect for the position even if it’s no longer something in Murray’s contract.
The damage is done, and can’t be taken back.
You would hope it would serve as a learning experience for the Cardinals and the rest of the NFL.
But it won’t.
Because as long as the talent on the field (Blacks) continues to look strikingly different from the front office and other prime decision-makers (white), there will be another Kyler Murray in the future.
A Black quarterback who is successful shows growth and has proven he’s a good player only to be reminded that for Black quarterbacks, good is never good enough.