The most popular sport in the United States by far is professional football. This isn’t “soccer,” which most of the world calls football. It’s the gridiron and more than 100 million people tune in to see the Super Bowl every year. Here is a look at the demographics of the players who go into battle on the gridiron every week.
67% of NFL players are African-American, while just 0.6% are Hispanic.
Within the NFL, there are also certain positions that tend to favor specific demographics. What is most interesting, however, is that despite two-thirds of NFL players being African-American, only one team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, has a majority owner who isn’t Caucasian.
The Positions of the NFL
- 97% of cornerbacks on NFL rosters are African-American.
- 84%. That’s the percentage of wide receivers in the NFL who are African-American.
- Caucasian players dominate the key positions, with 82% of quarterbacks being white and 84% of centers being white.
- Players who primarily play on special teams are at least 95% Caucasian in any given year in the NFL.
- 2% of players in the NFL list their race/ethnicity as “international.”
As with most of the US professional sports today, African-Americans are over-represented in the population pool in the NFL and every other population demographic is under-represented. Why does this happen? Socioeconomic factors may play a role. For African-American families, the NFL presents a ticket toward prosperity. For others, there is no need to experience more prosperity, so there isn’t the same level of effort made toward athletics.
Does Race Play A Factor in Salaries?
- The average salary of an African-American NFL player in 2014 was $2.18 million.
- The average salary of a Caucasian NFL player was $2.43 million.
- Asians and Pacific Islanders who play in the league earn an average of $2.32 million annually.
- Hispanics make the most per person in the league when race alone is a determining factor at $2.74 million.
- Despite these differences, 11% of each race of all NFL players active in the league have won the Super Bowl.
- California has more active NFL players  than any other state. Florida comes in second . Vermont is the only state that doesn’t have an active NFL player.
- More NFL players are born in Miami than any other US city . Los Angeles comes in second with 37 players.
Although African-Americans make the lowest amount of money per person in the league when race is used for comparison, there are some factors that may influence this. Caucasians tend to dominate the skill positions, which typically pay the highest salaries in the league. More players also means more lower-end salaries and this can influence the data as well. Hispanics may be severely under-represented in the league, but they also tend to dominate each statistical category in this area. With the health issues the NFL faces today, however, these demographics may change in the near future. If parents are investing tens of thousands of dollars into their child’s education, many would not risk having that child play a sport where they could become permanently injured and that investment wasted.
The Age of NFL Players
- Most NFL players are between the ages of 23-25, accounting for nearly 700 total active players in the league in 2014.
- Only 12 active NFL players in 2014 were above the age of 36. Just 1 NFL player was 40 years old.
- In comparison to the other end of the age spectrum, only 3 NFL players in 2014 were 20 years of age.
- The highest salaries in the league appear between the ages of 27-28, with a $1 million jump in average salary between these two ages.
- The highest median salary in the NFL occurs at age 32, with an average wage of $4.42 million.
NFL players are typically young, which is why there has been a strong emphasis on player protection in the last 5 years from the league. New concussion protocols, changes to the style of play, and other adaptions have been implemented to reduce the number of traumatic injuries that may occur. Of particular danger is CTE, which can cause mental changes later on in life and even put a player’s life at risk. The NFL may be popular, but it should also be safe. There’s no real purpose to earning millions of dollars if you can’t live long enough to spend it.