Monday, May 23, 2022
HomeSportsNFL | NCAA FootballJon Embree broke the Unwritten Rule of the Race Card

Jon Embree broke the Unwritten Rule of the Race Card

Four days after Jon Embree was fired as Head Football Coach of the Colorado Buffaloes the country is still buzzing from the ongoing debate about the level of racism involved in hiring decisions in College Football. Embree was named the Buffaloes head coach two years ago, succeeding Dan Hawkins. Embree was only the third CU alumni to head coach the football team and the first in nearly a half century. On Monday he was terminated after compiling a 4-21 record including 1-11 in his final year, the worst year in the history of Colorado Buffaloes football.

[adinserter block=”1″]Tuesday ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said that he couldn’t defend Embree on his record, but his firing again brings to the spotlight the lack of chances minority coaches have gotten in college football. “The reality of the situation is, let’s take a couple of things into consideration. The man lost by an average of 48-17, didn’t win a home game for the first time in school history since 1920. Those things resonate. It’s hard to make the argument on his behalf, but here’s where he has a very valid point, and it’s something African-American coaches have lamented to me personally over the year”.

Wednesday morning, Embree was a guest of the Evan & Phillips show on Mad Dog Radio on SiriusXM to discuss his firing and the possible role race played into it. Embree suggested that if he were white he would have been given at least an additional year to improve the program like his Caucasian counterparts. Embree also stated that his being a minority would impede his ability to receive a future head coaching position at the collegiate level like some notable names such as Gene Chizik.

As a man of African American and Mexican decent, in addition to being a CU Alumni and father of four, I find Embree’s remarks during his press conference at the University of Colorado and subsequent interviews with the media to be quite disturbing on many levels. First, Jon Embree was hired from the Washington Redskins where he served as the Tight Ends Coach.

That in itself is a once in a lifetime opportunity to receive your first Head Coaching position at a Division I school whose history includes a national championship and alumni that feature many former and current NFL players. He didn’t have to move his way up from coaching Junior College or Division II because the combination of his collegiate and NFL experience, as well as his ties to the University of Colorado enabled him to gain this BIG break.

Embree is indeed a coach who is African American. Two years ago you would be hard pressed to find many reports if any at all questioning Embree’s credentials to be the head coach at the University of Colorado. The University of Colorado thought he was qualified to lead their program two years ago and on Monday they fired him because they decided that he wasn’t. This season he coached his team to a 1-11 year.

The problem is that the wins and losses were not black or white, nor were the ridiculous amount of points that the team gave up on a weekly basis, or the embarrassing losses to in state rival Colorado State, or Division II cupcake Sacramento State. The blowout losses that they sustained to USC, Oregon, Stanford, Fresno State and everyone else they played this season were not black or white. Plain and simple, Embree did not do his job and his job was to win games or at the very least field a competitive team. Embree is a football coach that was relieved from his position because the University of Colorado realized that things were not going to improve next year or ANY year for that matter under Embree as head coach.

What is with the illusion that if you are hired as a head coach you are entitled to coach for 3-5 years or the duration of your contract? There is no such thing as being untouchable…especially in these high-profile coaching positions. Then to have a sour-grapes attitude after the fact by attempting to justify your lack of results and poor performance on the University, racism and the inability to compete without cheating is of very poor taste.

Shame on you Jon Embree as African American man. Using the same reasoning would we expect that Romeo Crennell would accuse the Kansas City Chiefs of being racist if they decided to fire him at the end of this NFL season? Could he point the finger at only being afforded one full season, two horrible QBs, a general manager with questionable personnel decisions, injuries, lack of fan support and a tough schedule as reasons why he should have another year? Or would Crennell point the finger and say Norv Turner would have had more time given to him to do the same remedial job?

As a minority the unwritten rule taught to us by our parents and families is very clear: Do not use the race card in an attempt to justify poor performance or behavior. As a minority it should be understood that you need to perform at a level above your Caucasian counterparts and that margin for error may be slim to none, especially in cases where you are the first or one of the few fortunate minorities to have the opportunity to break ground in a new position and/or field. I am not saying that life is fair but everyone needs to play the hand they are dealt with rather than wasting energy creating excuses.

Playing the race card plays into the stereotypes those others who are racist claim that minorities fall into. In addition continuing to play the race card ruins it for future candidates and generations of people who are seeking for a fair opportunity free of racial bias. What incentive is there for another University to hire Jon Embree as the head coach if he is going to go on a tirade accusing his superiors of racism or incompetence?

[adinserter block=”2″]Or the incentive for a University to hire a minority head coach at all if they could point to Embree who actually had close ties to the University, yet still decided to burn bridges afterwards in an unprofessional manner? Embree may have inexplicably made it more difficult for minorities to obtain prestigious coaching positions in the college ranks because whether it’s fair or not, future decision makers at these Universities may categorize all potential minority candidates in the same category as the “Angry Black Man”, stereotype that Embree played into. Most importantly and unfortunately incidents like this one that are magnified by the media tell younger generations that it is ok and acceptable to use the race card and accuse others of discrimination as a crutch and tool to manipulate those that we interact and work with.

Roberto Padilla is a Sports Talk Radio personality for Denver’s Mile High Sports Radio 1510 AM/93.7 FM and Internet Sports Station

You can reach Roberto by:

Email at or Twitter @RobertoDenver

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  1. Black people always see racism because with the exception of certain attributes in the athletic realm they are way behind whites and Asians. Period. That is not racism, just reality. Affirmative action can not even help blacks graduate from college when they are accepted with lower grades and qualifications then whites. Blacks make up over 33% of all welfare recipients yet only make 13% of the population (whites roughly 31% yet are almost 70% of the population). The other side of that coin is that they make up a majority of the criminal element in society; just look into the statistics of crime rate and incarceration from the DOJ. Also, 75% of black children are born into single mother homes while less than 40% of black kids graduate high school. You will say its all the white mans fault not the black culture, that makes you the racist and only makes it harder for blacks to succeed. Its victim mentality.

  2. Tom,

    You are saying that all whites are racists and not capable of of judging each African American is an individual. CU is he only one responsible for the negative press.


    If all blacks would think like you, blacks would still be at the back of the bus, hoping to get a chance to ride in the front, if we are just nice enough. As an american, and a black man, Jon Embree has the right to act the way he feels, and it RACISTS of you to compare to another man simply because he black, and "acts" the way you want him to. Why aren't black men allowed to be who they choose to be without you judging them for what another black person says?

    CU has a race problem. Do you remember the issue that CU had when coach Mac left? I do. Trust me, the level of talent went down from the middle of coach Rick's time and has bottom out. If anyone were to ask him, I'm sure he would say he left CU, because wasn't serious about being a big time program and guess what, they are still not .

    Do you remember that CU response to the Gary Barnett mess was to make that certain kids didn't go to that school.

    Do you remember when all the African American women left the basketball program at the same time? I do. CU women's basketball as not be relevant since then. You even had two highly regarded women (Abby Waner and Ann Struther) that didn't even consider the program.

    Now you have this.

    Bottom line is this. Players that can play don't want to play at CU.

  3. I think Jon has just made it more difficult for future Black coaches to be hired. Schools will now consider "What happens if this candidate does not work out? Are we going to get the same negative press that Colorado got when they fired Embree?".

  4. Great feedback! No arguing that CU may have pulled the plug too soon or that they did not offer the proper support to him. But to say the University that gave you your first big break is racist or that you wont get another job bc youre Black sounds more like a crutch to his poor performance. Tell me why Ty Willingham didn't do the same when fired by Notre Dame with a better record? If Embree had just bowed out gracefully no doubt another University would have liked his big program experience as well as his NFL experience to go with his impressive GPA standards and loyalty to his alumni/us. They would have known he got the raw deal at CU and would no doubt feel that given ample time and support that he would be successful elsewhere. Rather he did what we teach our children or what we should teach: not to burn any bridges on the way out, regardless if you are wronged and justified in doing so.

  5. You are overlooking the comments of former CU coach Bill McCartney who also said that race was involved in the firing. McCartney is a white conservative. If even he can see the racism, then why can't you?

  6. It's PAST time for colleges to have something similar to the Rooney Rule….white coaches can be plucked from crack houses before a game, hire and pay their mistresses 6 figure incomes, be bonafide members of AA, slap subordinates on National tv, pay players, have losing records and STILL be given Division 1A jobs….meanwhile, black coaches are given jobs in difficult situations over favorable ones and judged as a whole, not individually in a smaller block of time…Embree is one of many qualified candidates that won't be given opportunities because of the color of their skin….NOT the content of their resumes!

  7. Good article. Still sad (I am mixed race also) that African Americans STILL have to be better than whites at the same job. That being sad, Jon Embree does have a point though. White coaches who have had bad records get multiple chances, particularly in the pros (see Norv Turner), but I am sure it happens in the colleges also.

    Skip Bayless was saying that the college system needs its own version of the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule has been very successful in getting talented minority coaches INTERVIEWS. At least their names get out there.

    I just think it is time for the University/College system to adopt a Rooney Rule.


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