Stacking within American sports & positions


Stacking-position is the segregation by race or ethnicity in sports, it can occur in many sports, however some may be more apparent than others.

In sports, stacking can be explained as Minority groups being excluded from positions with the greatest opportunity for determining the outcome of the game or competition. The procedure occurring is where by both white and black players are placed in positions in which they are stereotyped to be best suited, in terms of attribution and ability. (Johnson & Johnson, 1995).

When coaches are looking to assign players to positions they tend to match player characteristics to positional requirements, racial stereotypes lead them to assume the majority group members will be more likely to have characteristics associated with central position (Brower, 1972)

American Football

Are therefore there seems to be a disproportionate allocation of players to central and non- central positions on the basis of race. It is the majority groups, those players who are white, occupy the more central positions in the sport, positions which require most communication, with leadership potential as well as positions which require a lot of thinking and decision making. Coaches also emphasised this with comments such as “White up the middle” (Snyder, 2010). Central positions include  the quarter backs, centre, guard, linebacker and kicker. Where as the minority groups in this sport take up positions more of a athletic and ‘instinct’ nature, such as defensive back, running back and receiver.

Showing the positions in American football Showing the positions in American football

Stacking examples

One of the most extreme cases of racial stacking in American football occurred when hall of famer Warren Moon first tried to enter the NFL as a quarterback, unlike other black quarterbacks Moon had experienced great success playing in this position during his college years. However when he wanted to take the step up to professional level it was speculated that since only one African American quarterback, James Harris, had achieved any measurable success in the NFL, Moon would have to play some other position. Refusing to do, as he remained confident of his abilities he opted to sign with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, where he lead them to an unprecedented five consecutive Grey Cup victories. This move was one which Moon didn’t want to do however because of the American coaches stacking mindset as they presumed lack of intelligence, poise, leadership and patience (Snyder, 2010). He is known as the NFL’s first truly successful superstar black quaterback (Shmoop, 2011).

Read more about Warren Moon and his acceptance into the Hall of fame at:

And stacking can be analysed by not only looking at black players but also white players. The halfback position in recent years has seen a dominance of non-whites, particularly blacks. As of 2010, Cleveland Browns halfback Peyton Hillis is the only white starting running back in the NFL. With no one players holding this position in 2009. (Bongiovanni, 2011).

History and in the sport today

The white supremacy of sport was broken in 1962, with the number of black players increasing ever since. By 1970, African- American players in professional football made up about 30% of the leagues players, today black players constitute a significant majority of the players, approximately 70%. However a measure of racial controversy has continued to bedevil the sport, even into the 21st century. Many of these issues have derived from the existence of informal patterns of positional segregation within within integrated football teams. Even though African- American players form the majority of the NFL population, central positions on the field are still occupied by white players, with emphasis on the most important and prestigious position of quarterback (Shmoop, 2011).

Although there has never been an official prohibition against black quarterbacks, African American players still struggle to get a chance to shine in the most crucial and celebrated position of the game. And as a result there has always been a shortage of black quarterbacks in the NFL, this has occurred as a result of powerful racial stereotypes, operating at all levels of the game which has resulted in black and white players being pushed into different positions. Positional segregation is more apparent in American football due to the nature of the game. Unlike basketball and soccer, where every player must be able to perform all aspects of the game, American football is a game which is played by specialised positional experts. Players are categorised into offence or defence, with different responsibilities required in each position: some throw, some catch; some run, some kick whilst some block and some tackle. Every player is slotted into one particular position on the field, with each position requiring a narrowly specific skill set, which is developed over many years of practice.

In the 1990s and 2000s, black quarterbacks became more and more common in the NFL. In 2007, black quarterbacks took snaps for fifteen different teams, an all-time high. But even today black quarterbacks appear to receive higher levels of scrutiny and pressure in their given position in comparison to their white counterparts.

In may 2009 there was a clear discrepancy in the lack of African Americans in the quater back position versus the overall population of african americans in the NFL. Accoriding to the NFL website a total of 67% of the league was composed of african americans, versus 20% of quaterbacks (Kutcher, 2009).

Stacking children?

Stacking in sports can start even at the lowest of levels in the sport, when a kid turns up to play football it is the coach which has to decide where to play them. Because of the racial stereotypes in America it was assumed that black players were more naturally gifted athletes, where as white player’s possessed superior mental capabilities. Because of these stereotypes coaches often would favour one race over the other for particular positions. This method of positional segregation at such a young age could affect the sporting career pathway for the athlete and determine the success they are able to achieve.

A talented young black athlete was usually to viewed by coaching as being fast, possessing high levels of speed and quickness, therefore being ‘stacked’ into positions such as running back, wide receiver or defensive back.  Meanwhile a promising white athlete would often be seen as having mental sharpness as well as good communication and leadership qualities, thus would be ‘stacked’ into the quarterback role (Shmoop, 2011).

Stacking in other sports

Stacking in sport is when a player is put in that position because of the way they look. “In the journal major league baseball, the data shows that Latino players tend to be stacking infield (especially at the core positions of shortstop and second base), not in the outfield as was predicted” (Leticia, 2002) . So this shows that stacking does not happen in every sport and that players can be played anywhere, as long as they are good in that position. Black people are faster, bigger and stronger, this shows why there are most black people who play running sports like sprinters and basketball, rather than ice skating or darts (Steenbergen, Knop, Elling, 2001).


Figure 1- Linford Christie

Figure 1 shows a black athlete, he is a 100 metre sprinter, who represents Great Britain. If research was done, they will find that a lot of black people will have fast twitch muscles and the advantages of fast and slow twitches means they have great endurance and explosive power (Lyndsey, 2000). This will show why many black people participate in sports like basketball and running events, as they are successful at this.

Stacking In Baseball

The three main sports that have been looked at in stacking are Baseball, Basketbal and American Footbal. To start off with the history of Baseball and black people,  In July 1887, league policy banned the admission of future black and this was made from white players (Negro League Baseball History Players, 2007). This is showing that people did not have human rights, racism was involved and they cut black players out alltogether, no matter what telent they had. In the 1880’s black teams were created and they began to play Baseball again. Black people began to have their rights back, although the teams did not mix together as a whole (black and white people). Eventually black and white people were seen equal and anyone could be in the teams, depending on their ability, but still today stacking still occurs, black people are seen to be played infield, but refering back to ‘The stacking of Latino’s in major league baseball’ journal, they found that the players were stacked infield, but they predicted the players were stacked outfield. So this gives the question, does stacking occur in sport, or do people just presume its stacking,  as they can be played anywere.


Figure 2- Jackie Robinson

Stacking In Basketball

In the 1950’s many black basketball players played in the centre positions and the white players played centre or point guard. The percentage of black players then was over 85%, so over half of the team consisted of black players (Volkwein-Caplan, 2004). This could be seen as stacking as a centre position are usually tall people, who many black people are tall, but this could be argued that white people are just as tall as black people (Stiletto set sports, 2011). The positions for black people are based on strength, speed and dynamics and prowess. For white people their set positions are based on intelligence, mental stability and independent decision making (Lapchick, 1989). This shows that the players who are picked for positions are not based on ability in the sport and this is also suggesting that black people are not intelligent or smart.


Figure 3- Michael Jordan


Bongiovanni, G.B. (2011). Cleveland Browns Running Back Peyton Hillis: The Great White Hope. Retrieved January 27th, 2011. from

Borwer, J.J. (1972) The racial basis of the division of labor among players in the National Football League as a function of stereotypes. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association. Portland, OR.

Gonzalez, G. Leticia. (2002). The stacking of Latino’s in major league baseball.  Journal of Hispanic Higher Education. 1(4), 190

Lindsey, E (2000). Why black athletes are fast runners. London: Routledge.

Johnson, B.D. & Johnson, N.R. (1995) Stacking and “Stoppers”: A Test of the Outcome Control Hypothesis. Sociology of Sport Journal,12,105-112

Kutcher, C. (2009). Racial Stacking in Football: Where are all the African American Quarterbacks? Retrieved Jan 31st, 2011. from

Negro Leagues Baseball Players Association. (2007). Retrieved 29/01/2011. From:

Snyder, D. (2010) Black Quarterbacks Are Almost Ho-Hum. Retrieved January 21st, 2011. from

Shmoop (2011). Race in History of the NFL. Retrieved January 27th, 2011. from

Steenbergen, J. Knop, B & Elling, A (2001). Values and norms in sport. Oxford : Meyer & Meyer Sport

Stiletto set sports (2011). Retrieved 31/01/2011. From:

Volkwein-Caplan, K. (2004). Culture, sport and physical activity. Sports publisher association.

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