Peyton Hillis, running back for the Cleveland Browns, was recently asked about being a white running back in the NFL. On Tuesday, Hillis told Sports Illustrated's Dan Patrick that he's often taunted during games for his race. The Huffington Post reports:
"Every team did it," Hillis said. "They'll say, 'You white boy, you ain't gonna run on us today. This is ridiculous. Why are you giving offensive linemen the ball?'
He went on to give examples of the nicknames he heard throughout the season. Patrick said his favorite was "The Avalanche."
"I heard that one," Hillis replied. "I heard 'White Rhino.' I heard ... Chuck Norris.'"
NBC Sports' Josiah Schlatter shrugged off Hillis' comments, claiming it was probably nothing more than a little game play:
Is this an example of the mysterious ‘reverse racism’ everybody’s saying exists now? Not to my knowledge. Most defensive players like to try and get inside a star player’s head to feast on their insecurities as a human so when they receive a hand-off and hit a running lane they have the idea that they’re a slow nobody with a stupid facemask who can barely tie his own shoelaces bouncing around their skull.
Because Hillis is white, he noticed these comments a little bit more, and when Patrick asked him a touchy question, he went at it with the same bullheadedness he uses to perfection on the football field. There haven’t been many great white running back hopes in recent memory, and defensive players are put on their heels a little bit because they have no idea how to insult Hillis without bringing race into the equation.
Whether the remarks aimed at Hillis are racially charged or not, the running back says he converts the underhanded criticism into motivation:
“I know a lot of people don’t have a lot faith in me,” he said, “and even if you have a good year or a bad year they’re still going to criticize you and say you’re not good enough. It just gives me the motivation to go out there and do better.”