NFL Slave Trade?
Recently Adrain Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings said about the NFL and it’s owners:
“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,” Peterson continued. “The owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money.”
Rashard Mendenhall of the Steelers then defended those comments, saying:
Now, I’m no expert on the slave trade having never been one nor owning one… and in that same vein, neither have Peterson or Mendenhall. That said, I don’t see, understand, comprehend or make any sense out of the comparison between the NFL players / owners dynamic and that of a slave / slave owner.
My first thought would be that perhaps it means that NFL team owners are like slave owners, but that doesn’t make any sense since players are not forced to put in work, nor are they denied conpensation or basic human rights. Then I thought that perhaps the players compare to slaves, but that makes no sense either, as players are not only payed millions of dollars (10.72 million in 2011 alone in Peterson’s case, five years worth 12.55 million of which $7.125 million is guaranteed for Mendenhall), but they can chose to quit altogether and go work elsewhere.
They have other rights within the game as well, like the right to sign a contract they feel is market value, the right to hold out from said contract, the right to use free agency to change teams and the ability to retire when they so choose.
OK, so they don’t compare, but do they “parallel” as Mendenhall claims? I see a case could be made at the combine, as players are treated like a commodity or a piece of meat, when their skills are tested. However, any job requires a certain skill set that is ascertained during an interview/testing process. In that way, ALL worker/employer relationships “parallel” the slave trade.
Also, the draft could be viewed that way, in that teams “own” the rights to players they draft. However, this “parallel” falls apart as well in that a contract must be agreed to so as to provide compensation for those services. If an agreement can’t be reached, the player is not forced to play. There is even precedent where a drafted player forced a owner to trade him because of not wanting to play for them (Eli Manning ring a bell?)
It is unbelievably irresponsible to compare the buying and selling of human beings in the slave trade to workers who want to work for a business, which is what the NFL is. Peterson is allowed to make a misstatement, as nobody is perfect, but to have Mendenhall come to the defense of the indefensible… that is just sad.
I’m not here to trash Mendenhall or Peterson, as many on Twitter have done, nor am I going to be like the idiots who rush to their defense. I merely want to say that this line of thinking denigrates a real history of a people who were forced into slavery by a group of people who claim that history without actually knowing what it’s really all about. Frankly, I’m thankful that Peterson and Mendenhall really know nothing about slavery, since they do not really experience it, and that means as a society we are doing something right.