Jemele Hill: Cancelled HBCU games impacted NFL draft outcome

“When you’re at an HBCU and you don’t have the constant spotlight of the bigger programs…obviously there’s going to be some challenges in terms of how players are noticed,” said Hill.

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Unlike previous years, HBCU players were not represented in this year’s NFL draft.

Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders and sports journalist Jemele Hill recently spoke out about the controversy surrounding not one player from a historically Black college or university being picked.

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“And we have the Audacity to Hate on one another while our kids are being NEGLECTED & REJECTED. I witnessed a multitude of kids that we played against that were more than qualified to be drafted. My prayers are that This won’t EVER happen again. Get yo knife out my back and fight with me not against me!,” wrote the HBCU Jackson State coach on Instagram.

In the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame, 10 % of  players attended HBCU schools.

“When you’re at an HBCU and you don’t have the constant spotlight of the bigger programs…obviously there’s going to be some challenges in terms of how players are noticed,” said Hill while speaking with New York Times columnist Charles Blow on Wednesday. She argued another viewpoint.

Jemele Hill
Journalist Jemele Hill attends the Heavyweight Championship of The World “Wilder vs. Fury” Premiere at Staples Center on December 01, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

She spoke on how the pandemic played a huge role in the controversy. “We have to be realistic about the battle HBCU football programs this year, many of them didn’t play at all.”

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She continued with: “This isn’t to give the NFL or scouting departments a pass, but we have to understand, much like is the case for Black people period in this country, if America gets sick, we get completely ravaged and I think that’s what you saw happen for a lot of the HBCU programs who were unable to play.”

Blow countered that some players opted out of the season and used game tapes from the previous year.

“Program reputation helps those players,” said Hill.

“There is a different level of game tape for a player who sat out from an SEC school. I’m not saying HBCU players don’t face different obstacles that other players from big time schools don’t have to worry about facing,” she concluded. “But I think you could honestly say the same thing for schools that are smaller and less visible or not in major Power Five Conferences, I’m sure it cost a lot of those players as well.”

As reported by theGrio, others agree with Sanders’s point of view. The Washington Post reported Doug Williams, Grambling alum and the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, also expressed his disapproval of zero HBCU football players being selected.

“It’s hard to believe that not one guy is worthy of being drafted,” he said. Williams currently works as a senior adviser for the Washington Football Team. “That, to me, that’s a travesty. Hopefully we can fix it.”

Grambling Coach Broderick Fobbs believed the coronavirus pandemic impacting HBCU football programs played a factor.

“I think that [the pandemic] played a huge role in the lack of players represented from our conference and also from HBCU football,” he said to the Post. “There’s plenty of guys who have the ability to be drafted and should have been drafted. But I think when it boils down to it, these teams were not able to do as thorough a search as they normally are. … But yes, it is a little bit of a disappointment. I don’t think it’s anything personal. People are trying to fill their rosters with the best players that they can and also with no-brainers. The pandemic played a huge role in eliminating a lot of those diamonds in the rough.”

According to the Post, a handful of HBCU athletes signed free agent contracts after the draft: Grambling tackle David Moore (Carolina Panthers), Florida A&M University tackle Calvin Ashley (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), North Carolina A&T cornerback Mac McCain (Denver Broncos), and North Carolina Central University cornerback Bryan Mills (Seattle Seahawks)

Additional reporting by DeMicia Inman

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