The NFL’s Diversity by Position
We ran 2017–18 NFL player profile photos through a neural net to objectively classify ethnicity and determine the diversity in the NFL position groups.
- The NFL in 2017 was predominantly comprised of black (66%) and white (27%) players
- There is a disproportionate dispersion of white players on offense vs. defense, with Centers and Quarterbacks each at 82% and 78%, respectively
- While the highest frequency of white players on defense is Linebackers (18% white)
- There are 0 white Cornerbacks currently in the NFL
- The special teams only positions (Kicker, Punter, and Long Snapper) are all 97%+ white
- NFL position groups show statistical significance of heterodeskacity
Using profile photos from NFL.com, we put each player through a trained neural network to classify the highest probability of a player’s ethnicity. The results are given back as probabilities. We then classify each player based on their maximum likelihood ethnicity.
This study is a starting point of a study of diversity in the NFL. While race is a hot topic across the NFL and America, we are not going to preemptively jump to any conclusions or provide hot takes. We are simply presenting the data.