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Washington team president Jason Wright: Systemic racism exists in NFL because it exists everywhere

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Washington Football Team president Jason Wright has been in his job for five months now, and after experiencing his first-ever head coach hiring cycle as an executive, he has some thoughts on systemic racism and bias in the NFL.

Wright recently sat down for an interview with Axios’ Jim VandeHei and discussed his feelings about a variety of topics, but he spent the most time discussing diversity in the NFL — more than just racial diversity, but diversity of gender and sexual orientation as well.

Wright: Systemic racism is everywhere

Wright is the NFL’s first-ever Black team president, and his success only underscores how Black people struggle to rise to leadership positions in the NFL. But Wright knows that’s not a problem specific to the NFL. Systemic racism is a problem in society, so of course it’s a problem in the NFL as well.

VandeHei: You were a player, now you’re a president. Is there systemic racism in the NFL?

Wright: I see systemic racism, systemic gender bias, systemic bias of all sorts as a bit of the air we breathe in society. It’s a little bit of, does it exist period? Yes. Therefore it exists everywhere.

Wright doesn’t believe that systemic racism is worse in the NFL than in other places. He just thinks it’s more noticeable since Black men make up the majority of the NFL’s on-field workforce.

VandeHei: Is it more profound [in the NFL]?

Wright: I think it is more obvious because 70% of the men on the field are Black men, right? So I think it’s just, the optics of it are different.

Washington team president Jason Wright says systemic racism exists in the NFL because it exists everywhere. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Washington team president Jason Wright says systemic racism exists in the NFL because it exists everywhere. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Racism goes beyond what’s obvious

Wright pointed out that racism is more than what’s obvious. It’s embedded in the reactions that people have when Black people accomplish something. Wright took that even further, saying that women and people in the LGBTQ+ community also carry that burden.

VandeHei: In your role as president of the Washington Football Team, do you still feel like you’re experiencing racism in the capacity of running the team?

Wright: I think the way that I’ve experienced racial bias, which is my preferred term, is something that I’ve experienced... through high school, college, and definitely in my professional career. It’s that when you have any moment of accomplishment, accolade, appointment or whatever, the first question on people's minds is: ‘Is this tokenism? Is this a PR stunt? Do they deserve it?’ And that is an additional burden that sits on people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, that doesn't exist on other folks.

It always pops up no matter what, no matter what your track record was before. As a result, you carry that with you. It's something that every Black professional experiences at some level.

Wright highlighted that he wants to build an inclusive culture with Washington, and that team owner Dan Snyder has been supportive of him bringing in more women and people of color.

“Because we know that if we have a diverse team,” Wright said, “we actually get to better outcomes.”

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