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Jalen Hurts is one of few Black quarterbacks. To me, that’s a big deal.

I'm a New Yorker, but I love the Eagles because of Donovan McNabb and, now, Hurts. I like to think of my race-based bias as a "form of protest."

Jalen Hurts throws during the Eagles game against the Washington Commanders on Sept. 25.
Jalen Hurts throws during the Eagles game against the Washington Commanders on Sept. 25.Read moreMonica Herndon / Staff Photographer

To some, I am a traitor.

I am a New Yorker who has always been a secret Philadelphia Eagles fan — so much so, I drove to Washington, D.C., last month to watch Jalen Hurts face Carson Wentz and the Washington Commanders.

In hindsight, it was a sports pilgrimage.

I purchased the tickets on an impulse, after convincing my partner that the spontaneous jaunt to D.C. would be an exciting adventure. When we arrived at FedEx Field on Sunday, Sept. 25, 20 minutes before kickoff, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I leaped out of the car, leaving her to park, and sprinted to the entrance as helicopters flew over the stadium and fireworks burst. I was desperate to witness the 24-year-old Houston native do his thing.

And there is a lot he can do. Jalen Hurts has the arm talent to sling dimes downfield, the legs to “get freaky” — as he likes to say — “in the open field,” and the strength to pound his way into the end zone like a fullback.

When I finally found my seat in the nosebleeds, I couldn’t help but open my mouth. “I drove all the way down from New York to watch Jalen Hurts give Carson Wentz the business in enemy territory,” I said to the Commanders fan in the row in front of me.

“Why don’t you go and root for the Giants?” he asked.

I told him I was a Hurts — and before him, a McNabb — fan. He understood.

It’s the quarterbacks that keep me coming back to the Eagles. Particularly, Donovan McNabb and now Jalen Hurts: great players, who played (and still play) with verve and heart. They ran and dove toward the pylon; they zinged the football in tight windows across the field.

But a key factor of my support was their race. McNabb and Hurts are Black like me.

» READ MORE: Embracing the legacy

Sometimes I feel conflicted accepting this truth. I worry that by allowing race to determine my rooting interest, I endorse race-based bias, something that has killed Black men in this country for centuries. I often wonder how my late grandfather — a civil rights attorney who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Florida — would respond to my feelings toward McNabb and Hurts. Would he understand?

Furthermore, what is it about the quarterback position that causes so much of a stir? Would I root for a basketball player with the same enthusiasm I have for Hurts? No. I simply would not. And I loved Kobe Bryant. I wept when I heard he passed. But my feelings for Hurts are more encompassing.

The quarterback is arguably the most respected position in American team sports. Being a good QB requires excellent physical and mental skills. Not only are they asked to move the ball downfield with their arms and legs, quarterbacks also have to diagnose defenses, make calls on the fly, and lead men.

The NFL is 57% African American, but a much smaller percentage of the starting quarterbacks this season have been Black. Conversely, 25% of NFL players are white, yet they make up the vast majority of starting quarterbacks.

The statistics prove what I could never articulate as a child: My race-based bias for McNabb, and now Hurts, is a form of protest.

That Sunday in D.C., each pass Hurts completed filled me with a sense of pride.

That Sunday in D.C., each pass Hurts completed filled me with a sense of pride. I pounded my chest and talked that talk to the Commanders fan in the row in front of me as the young signal-caller put 24 points on the board and scored three touchdowns, just in the first half. In the penultimate year of his rookie deal, Hurts is playing to become the next face of the Eagles franchise, and be what McNabb was for me to the next generation of children growing up in the Northeast.

On the drive back to New York, I recalled one of my first visits to D.C. My mom and I drove down in January 2009 to witness history. We triple-layered our socks and gloves, and I still felt like my toes and fingers could have fallen off. And the truth is, I didn’t even want to go. I was afraid that then-President-elect Barack Obama would be shot. I begged Mom to stay home. At 14, I doubted whether this country could handle a Black president. But I’m glad I went. That day still reminds me of what this country can be.

It feels clear to me now.

By rooting for Hurts, I cheer for a fairer, more equal society, where the right to play any position is determined by somebody’s skill set, not by their race.

Bernard Mokam is a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism at New York University.