The right to be a better paid slave: What the NFL Lockout is all about according to Adrian Peterson

In a titanic struggle over how to divvy up $9 billion, National Football League (NFL) team owners officially announced a lockout of the players.

Adrian Peterson, a “modern-day” slave, was set to make $10 million this year

The most popular sport in America threatens to founder on a very avoidable iceberg of egos that will inevitably turn off fans — even Big Fans — in the coming months.
We wrote about the potential for a  lockout back in 2010 and have discussed the NFL on numerous occasions. Were it not for Fantasy Football, I’d have tuned the game out long ago.

I’d rather go play a pick-up game of tackle football then watch these overpaid, overspecialized professionals play a game of NFL football in the gaps between an endless procession of commercials. If players actually played both ways — offense and defense — as they once did, then I might be interested in watching. With upwards of 40 to 50 seconds between plays that last less than seconds, the game has become tedious to watch, played without passion, and boring to follow.

The astronomical salaries these entertainers — “athletes” — get paid, money that they ultimately fritter away,  makes it increasingly hard to empathize with them in this lockout situation. Because the vast majority of the league’s revenue over the past half century has come from lucrative contracts for television broadcast rights, the owners and subsequently the players are now wealthy beyond their wildest dreams simply by virtue of playing a simple game.

At a time when the recession is still hitting families hard across the country and when recent Black graduates of college find it difficult to secure employment (harder still for graduates of HBCUs), the folly of a lockout becomes quite clear.

The NFL is 70 percent Black. Were it not for the athletic ability of these Black athletes the opportunity to earn millions of dollars a year playing football and millions more in endorsements peddling products would be only a dream. Worse still to ponder, many of the Black players in the NFL were accepted to major colleges only because of their athletic ability; it certainly was not their distinguished academic records that put them there. And the reality facing even normal Black college degree holders isn’t pretty right now.

Though it is prettier then the white-Black gap in graduation rates for college football programs.

So it should be painfully obvious even to those of the meanest intelligence that the NFL lockout of players would provide us with idiotic pronouncements that would showcase how out of touch with reality both the owners and the players are. A mere three days into the lockout, Adrian Peterson — who was set to earn $10 million this upcoming season — pulled a William Rhoden and asserted the treatment of players is tantamount to slavery:

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson compared NFL owners’ treatment of players to “modern-day slavery,” according to an online interview published Tuesday by Yahoo! Sports. 

Yahoo’s Doug Farrar, who conducted the interview Friday with Peterson, removed that comment from the story later Tuesday, explaining on Twitter that he wants to give Peterson the chance to provide context.

“The players are getting robbed. They are,” Peterson told Yahoo. “The owners are making so much money off of us to begin with. I don’t know that I want to quote myself on that.” 

When discussing other players feeling the same way, Peterson said: “It’s modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money. … The owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money

I understand that; these are business-minded people. Of course this is what they are going to want to do. I understand that; it’s how they got to where they are now. But as players, we have to stand our ground and say, ‘Hey, without us, there’s no football.’ “

Peterson is set to make $10.72 million in base salary in 2011.  

Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant took exception to Peterson’s comment, writing on Twitter: “Their is unfortunately actually still slavery existing in our world. Literal modern day slavery. That was a very misinformed statement.”

Added Grant: “But I understand what point he was trying to make. I just feel like he should have been advised a little differently.”

Saints fullback Heath Evans said he agrees with most of the Twitter responses about Peterson, which have been mostly negative.

“We are all blessed to even strap a helmet on in this league!” Evans tweeted.

Heath Evans is perhaps representative of everything that is right with professional football (and professional sports in general), while Adrian Peterson represents everything that is wrong. The sacrifices of thousands of players who came before Peterson are what paved the road that led the NFL brand to this point in the road that has let it attract a loyal fan base. 

This speech by Lawrence Taylor in the film Any Given Sunday perfectly encapsulates what Mr. Peterson fails to understand. He feels entitled to the money, to the fame, to the prestige of being an NFL player; what he neglects to think about are the players who came before, who were paid far less despite the fame and prestige they attained, who laid the foundation with their blood and sweat and broken bodies so the current crop of NFL entertainers can stand on their pedestals today.

Consult the excellent book Brand NFL to learn more about the history of the league of which Peterson is entirely ignorant, believing instead that the NFL magically spawned from the forehead of some Black player like Athena from Zeus.
For $10 million and a number of endorsement deals (including this pathetic Verizon commercial where a white guy fantasizes about his smoking-hot girl friend morphing into Peterson), would you — could you — call yourself a slave?

William Rhoden, a New York Times reporter, wrote a book entitled $40 Million Dollar Slaves. He bemoaned that Black athletes might be making serious cash, but they find themselves locked out of managerial and front office positions, not to mention ownership roles. 

Memo to Bill Rhoden: Black players have to save money in order to have enough cash to leverage the purchase of a franchise.

The NFL consists of 32 teams with rosters of 53 players each.  That comes to just slightly under 1700 players. How many players participate in college football? With a normal college roster being about 100 players and with 120 Football Bowl Series (FBS) teams, that’s at least 12,000 players right there not even counting the FCS, Division II, and III.

Adrian, from a talent pool that large, you could easily be replaced.How many Danny Woodhead’s are out there who never even got a shot at the NFL? 

Adrian Peterson epitomizes all that is wrong with the NFL (and the attitude that is killing the NBA). Of course there will be football, with or without him. 

His ability to run a football is the sole reason he went to the University of Oklahoma in the first place. Were he not an athlete, one has to wonder where he’d be. 

Just know this Adrian: you are now eligible for COBRA insurance. No one is forcing you to be a pro football player. You are not a slave. 

With this asinine comment from Adrian Peterson, the disconnect between the workaday fans of the NFL and those elites who play the game should be patently clear.  A lot people, some of the loyal NFL fans, won’t make $10 million over the span of their entire working lives; Adrian Peterson was set to earn it in one season by playing a game the playing of which it was once said built character among those who played.

America is full of a lot of Big Fan‘s who live vicariously through your exploits, Adrian. They are such Big Fans, they are so forgiving, that they’ll forget you ever made your stupid and foolish utterance. But me, come game day this fall, I’ll just go outside with friends and play some tackle football.

These six-on-six, seven-on-seven or eight-on-eight games won’t be played in front of 70,000 fans in a stadium with millions more tuned in on television. We won’t have each drive and big play, each head fake and stutter step analyzed by ESPN, the NFL Network, or some other sports-themed show. We won’t make $10 million for our efforts or be the subject of radio call-in shows where Big Fans are put on hold for 30 minutes to wait their turn to debate each and every play from the prior week’s game.

But we’ll earn something far greater in the process: pride.



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