ESPN host ties low intelligence test score to NFL player arrests

Gabe Finger Contributor
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On his radio show Monday morning, ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd defended the use of the Wonderlic intelligence test by the NFL, pointing out  that it is not only a predictor of on-field success, but is also a predictor for off-field behavior.

Prompted by the news that 27 NFL players have been arrested this offseason, Cowherd discussed the usefulness of the test, and railed against the mainstream media’s charges that the test is racist.

“I don’t know why the media in the last couple years, ‘Whoa!’ It’s not a race thing, it’s a maturity thing. It goes across all lines. Maturity is what I want to know at 21. ‘Do you have your act together today, because I have to pay you 21 million guaranteed,'” Cowherd said.

The Wonderlic Test is used by groups, including the military, to assess mental aptitude in a time-pressured setting. For example, the median score in 1983 for a systems analyst was a 32, a reporter was 28, a security guard was 17, and a 10 was the bare-minimum for being literate.

Conversation about the test and its possible racist design heightened in March 2012 when it was revealed that Morris Claiborne had scored a four, and saw his draft stock plummet accordingly. He now plays cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys.

Among those who view it racist is Professor Jason Chung of McGill University, who wrote in a paper that “Another major barrier that African-American quarterbacks face stems from the increased use of the Wonderlic intelligence test through 1968 to 1999.” Wonderlic, he said, “like all aptitude tests, [is] culturally biased and therefore systemically set up to ensure that black athletes receive lower scores.”

“There have 27 NFL players arrested this offseason,” Cowherd said. “It’s a lot of players … Now there have been 655 guys, since 2000, arrested in this league … Here’s what I really noticed, out of all these arrests, this is the one thing I go back to: What positions have been arrested the most and what positions have been arrested the least? Well, arrested the most: Wide receiver, defensive back, defensive line, and linebacker. Those guys get arrested the most. Who gets arrested the least? Tight ends, offensive line and quarterbacks. Well, what do you know, the lowest Wonderlic scores get arrested the most and the highest Wonderlic scores get arrested the least. So dumb guys get arrested more often. Shocker.”

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Gabe Finger