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May 17, 2016
by Dr. Dawn Crosson,Psy.D

Robert Nkemdiche: NFL Player’s Creative Spirit Breaking Down Stereotypes

May 17, 2016 06:45 by Dr. Dawn Crosson,Psy.D  [About the Author]

While we supposedly live in a progressing society. Stereotypes of different groups of people remain and continue to linger in the world of sports. Robert Nkemdiche, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman, an Ole Miss graduate is one of many NFL athletes that doesn’t fit the stereotypical football player. He has been described as a creative spirit who desires to buy a panther and maybe start a fashion line, who enjoys playing the saxophone, and started writing a science fiction book. Yes, it appears that Nkemdiche may not be the typical NFL player. However, instead of embracing his differences and creativity, much of the focus on Nkemdiche prior to being drafted centered on the December 2015 incident that included a fall from a hotel window and the troubled behavior of his brother who helped raise him, Denzel Nkemdiche.

Nkemdiche is not alone when facing stereotypes in professional sports. “The NBA is full of thugs”, “If a baseball player gets remarkably better in a short period of time, he’s on steroids”, “All athletes are dumb jocks”, “all NFL players have been arrested or are on drugs”  (Martinez & Block, 2013) are just a few of the statements or beliefs reinforced in our society about athletes. Some stereotypes are considered to be positive but are still rigid in their perspectives. Descriptions such as professional athletes are "mentally tough, strong, and able to endure" can be just as damaging as negative stereotypes.  Many professional athletes suffer in silence with mental illness due to fear associated with stigmas and not meeting some of the positive stereotypical ideas of a player.  

Stereotypes and Heuristics

Stereotypes have probably been around since the start of civilization. Use of them often times helps us to feel secure and in control.  In social psychology, a stereotype is a widely adopted thought about certain types of people or ways of doing things. Stereotypes are heuristics, mental short cuts, that helps us make sense of the world in a relatively short amount of time.  It is hypothesized that when a person’s motivation or ability to process information diminishes, the person relies on heuristics and stereotypes (Bodenhausen, 1990).  Stereotypes can also be the result of group conflict. The theory postulates that as a result of scarce resources, hostility results between groups. Therefore, groups in higher socioeconomic classes may feel the need to protect their resources and may develop hostility towards those attempting to advance in a lower economic class. Although stereotypes can be useful in processing information quickly, utilizing them should be approached cautiously.

What’s the Theory?

While there may be some truth to stereotypes, the problem is that they are not completely true. Stereotypes are rigid and inflexible. While many groups of people or members of organizations have similarities, people also bring with them unique differences and that is what makes one an individual. When we base our opinions strictly on stereotypes we become biased and unfair. Use of stereotypes can be damaging and cause a number of social problems. The self-fulfilling prophecy asserts that people will meet the positive or negative expectations placed on them especially if others treat them according to the expectations. Therefore, people would behave according to the stereotypes placed on them. In addition, the stereotype threat theory postulates that when one is aware of the negative stereotype placed on them they will behave in a manner to avoid conforming to the stereotype. Therefore, if negative stereotypes are present regarding a specific group, group members may become anxious about their performance and hinder their ability to perform at their best.

While stereotypes can be beneficial in quickly assessing and simplifying our surroundings, it shouldn’t be the sole use of reasoning when dealing with people and situations. Acknowledging and identifying personal stereotypes may be the first step in tackling biased thinking. Taking the time to talk and become more acquainted with individuals and letting go of rigid thinking about certain groups are key to making progress in ridding ourselves of this behavior.

As for Robert Nkemdiche, for now, he appears unmoved about what people think of him and his creative outlook on life. He was recently drafted and fans will be looking forward to watching his NFL career in the upcoming season. He doesn't appear to care about being different. In fact, he seems to embrace his uniqueness in a league where being creative and a free spirit may be frowned upon. He’s not the stereotypical football player. Let’s hope he stays that way.


Martinez, Block (2013;March) The 20 Biggest Stereotypes in Sports History Retrieved May 17, 2016

Bodenhausen, G (1990) Psychological Sciencevol. 1 no. 5 319-322

Wickersham, S (2016; April) The Nkemdiche Prophecy. Retrieved May 17, 2016

About the Author

Dr. Dawn Crosson Dr. Dawn Crosson, Psy.D

Dr. Dawn Gullette Crosson is a native of Philadelphia, PA and received a Master's Degree in Community Psychology from the Pennsylvania State University. She later graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine with a Doctorate Degree in Clinical Psychology. She is a licensed Psychologist, trained in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Trauma Focused CBT and has been in the field of psychology since 1996.

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Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
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Phone: 717-503-2244
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