After rumours of discontent between Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals, the drama has seemingly been put to bed with the second-largest contract in the NFL behind Aaron Rodgers. The inclusion of a bizarre caveat, however, requires Murray to accomplish four hours of “Independent Study” every match week — which has obviously attracted widespread attention.
“‘Independent Study’ means player studies the material provided to him by the Club in order to prepare for the Club’s next upcoming game, including without limitations any such material provided via an iPad or other electronic device,” the clause reads.
“Time spent in mandatory meetings shall not constitute Independent Study.”
Ah, so it’s homework. Gotcha.
While it’s unclear how in the world they’ll enforce this insanely stupid condition, the Cardinals have made it clear that should Murray fall short of his weekly goals, he”ll be considered in default and the blockbuster US$230.5 million (AU$330 million) deal will be void.
Kyler Murray is a well-known fan of the Call of Duty games, someone even graphed how his performance drops off once a new release comes out during the NFL season. It’s almost as if someone in the Cardinals’ front office saw that Modern Warfare 2 trailer and decided to get on the offensive, given this homework clause also details how the 24-year-old won’t receive any credit if he engages in “any other activity that may distract his attention while such material is being displayed or played.”
Many have also suggested that this clause comes as a result of Murray downplaying the importance of watching game film during an interview with The New York Times in December of last year.
“I think I was blessed with the cognitive skills to just go out there and just see it before it happens,” said Kyler Murray.
“I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game because, in my head, I see so much.”
While many might see this and not see the issue with asking a quarterback that you pay US$46 million (AU$66 million) a year to do his research, it’s certainly unusual that it’s now a contractual obligation. A fair expectation, sure, but it does beg the question: why pay an individual this much money when you have virtually no faith in them to just do their job?
An “Independent Study” clause is both completely unheard of and incredibly disrespectful to Kyler Murray. Let’s not even get into the conspiracy territory of how this information was even “leaked,” because the longer you think on it the more this comes across as an attempt to infantilise and humiliate their franchise quarterback.
While we certainly aren’t trying to accuse anyone at the Arizona Cardinals of racism, it’s worth pointing out that Kyler Murray being forced by contract to do weekly homework has an unfortunate correlation with a long history of unfair treatment towards African-American quarterbacks.
Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes have constantly had to push back against this perception that black quarterbacks are less intelligent and recognised only for their athleticism, despite both being former MVPs and currently two of the best at the position. We can’t say we have ever seen The Athletic accuse either Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers of playing “streetball.”
Dr Judson L. Jeffries, a professor of African American and African studies at the Ohio State University, once explained to CNN:
“The knock on Black quarterbacks was they didn’t have the intellect or academics to play the position… They could run, but when it comes to learning a playbook, reading defences, learning sophisticated schemes, they weren’t able to do that.”
Whether you believe this to be the case for Kyler – or just his debilitating Call of Duty addiction – this is a problem in the NFL that they are yet to be rid of. And supported by data.
In 2017, economics professor Brian Volz found that black quarterbacks were twice as likely as white ones to be benched across a decade of games. Injury, age, experience, performance, team investment, and the quality of a team’s backup were all controlled factors in Volz’s research.
Whatever your thoughts are on the matter, it’s not hard to see why this clause would be considered insulting to Murray with the full context in mind. What is hard to see is how a team can expect to achieve any sort of success going forward while constantly undermining its star athlete.