A16: Research Position Paper – Tikeena Sturdivant

Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner conducted an interview with Adrian Peterson concerning the National Football League’s lockout. Adrian Peterson is a running back for the Minnesota Vikings, he was chosen in first round of the 2007 NFL Draft as pick seven. He compared being in the NFL to being a “modern day slave,” which offended many NFL fans. His comment was not meant to offended anyone, he was just expressing his frustration about the lockout. “It was [taken] out of context and it was on me for putting it out there to make it available to be taken out of context,” explained Peterson.

Adrian Peterson was metaphorically speaking when he tried to explain how he felt about the NFL as a whole. If someone was to actually examine the two I’m sure they’ll see many things that parallel. The fact that NFL players make a lot of money goes void when they are told who they have to work for. They don’t have a great number of teams who want them giving them the freedom to pick who they want to play for. In comparison, slaves will never given the freedom to pick who they wanted to work for. They had to work for who they were “drafted” to, which means they had no say so just like a NFL player. Slaves were “drafted” based on attributes such as intelligence, physical strength, skills, ad state of health. Most of the time slaves will be examined at an auction which their owners were allowed to purchase them. This for NFL players is done at the combine, which gives them the opportunity to show team owners what they’re capable of through their strengths and skills.

Slaves and NFL players were chosen based on the same attributes, which I found very interesting. The condition that slaves had to suffer in during this time might have been worth then NFL players, however, they also are put in uncomfortable situations. Professor Hodges brought something else to my attention, he said “Teams want to ‘get something for them’ instead of ‘letting them go for nothing.” Basically, if their remain health and continue to work on their strengths and skills they will be “granted a free agent.” This sounds identical to emancipation, I would have never thought of it this if Professor Hodges did not bring it to my attention.

Slavery will always be the “heart of conflict” between blacks and whites, at least it seems that way. There will always be whites who still believe that have the upper hand in the world compared to blacks. In addition, there will always be blacks who feel some type of resentment towards whites. In my causal essay, I explained how slaves were forced to deal with the hardships of being a slave or be set free and have nothing at all after the Thirteenth Amendment.

The Thirteenth Amendment says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall not exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Before the Thirteenth Amendment, President Lincoln released some thing that he thought would completely end slavery called the Emancipation Proclamation. This declared “all persons held as slaves within any State, or the designated part of a state, people whereof shall then be a rebellion to the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The Emancipation Proclamation was not taken serious which is why an actually Amendment had to be passed to give all Americans civil rights. The Thirteenth Amendment was the “final constitutional solution” to slavery. It was passed before the Southern states were restored, at the end of the Civil War. Once slaves were set free, they didn’t have to much to make a living with. It was almost like it was better just to just become a slave again. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment were passed, the life of a slave was hard. They were still neglected by society and had to deal with racial discrimination. As I mentioned in my causal essay, the Union Army encouraged blacks to go back to work as a slave to avoid the every day discrimination of not just one person but a whole society. I said, “I don’t think I would be willing to go back and work for anybody but what can I do if no one was willing to help me?” They could find jobs, they were lonely because they didn’t know where their family was, and they couldn’t find let along pay for somewhere to live. They were forced to accept the hardships of being a slave or had the option to be free with nothing or no one, which immediately put the NFL lookout on my mind!

Some of the men in NFL lost their position due to the lack of funding provided by the team owners. The lack of funding caused a great decrease in the salary. Did the team owners make less money? These white men are making money off of how good the players play a game and accept them to just deal with it because of the amount of money they making. Players are expected to go on the field and work hard to help make their owner money? That sounds parallel to slavery to me! Are they wrong for feeling some type of way? Are owners wrong for treating them as if they do all the work and the players do nothing?

White men began to be smart with there decisions and do what would look right in the public’s eye. Nobody will automatically see something wrong or even acknowledge the fact that all team owners are white men. Who says the white man can’t still make money off of hard working blacks in 2012? NFL players don’t even make half of what a team owner makes, what’s wrong with this picture? Who’s working the hardest, the team owners or the players? Blacks make up 70% of the NFL and 100% of the team owners. All slave owners were white most of the slaves if not all were black. I say that to say, blacks make up 70% of the NFL and 100% of the team owners are white. How much has really changed? The history of blacks in the NFL very interesting and led me to many conclusions.

George Preston Marshall had on influence on blacks being “forced out of the league.” He was the owner of the Redskins on refused to signed blacks into the NFL in 1961. Due to the All-American Conference the NFL was forced to sign more blacks. However, George Marshall remained skeptical about signing blacks to the NFL until he was confronted with “civil rights legal actions” by the Kennedy administration in 1962. He gave in once he realized his lease with the D.C Stadium would be destroyed if he continued to try and exclude blacks from professional football. Blacks began to get signed but of course they were treated poorly because they weren’t wanted there. They contracts consisted of less money and only a few years compared to a white male on the very same team as them. Blacks were good enough for the AFL, American Football League, but not the NFL. The AFL had 17% more blacks then the NFL, which said a lot! Its almost liking saying “blacks are worthy enough to clean my house but not build one of their own!”

Besides the racial policies of the NFL, players are also expected to deal with terrible labor. No one wants to be treated wrong no matter how much they are making. To me it seems as if the team owners have so much to say until the labor practices and their reasoning behind things are questioned.

“The NFL files Unfair Labor Practices Charge Against NFLPA,” was the title of an article I found online which immediately caught my attention. “The players didn’t walk out, and the players can’t lockout,” the union’s statement read. “Players want a fair, new and long-term deal. We have offered proposals and solutions on every issue the owners have raised. This claim has absolutely no merit.” The lockout was basically to change things in the owner’s favor but I feel as though that is very selfish of them. They were really willing to lock the players out to meet their needs, it had nothing to do what the player which it should have. I will continue to say the players are the ones who do the most work while the owners literally sit back and make more money then the “slaves”. Oop, I meant professional football players! “Wealthy white men still gather in rooms to decide how many times a year to put their mostly black players onto the field to put on a show for the fans,” Professor Hodges said as I stated in my causal essay. The white man had the upper hand before the Thirteenth Amendment and truth be told, he still does today!

Team owners walked out of a meeting, expressing the fact that the players wanting half of “all league revenues” was not acceptable. Players even asked to view the financial statements of their team and confirmation as to where the money is going. The team owners easily take one billion dollars off the table, no questions asked. The ratio from owners to players is 60/40 which is not fair, it should be the other way around. These professional football players are expected to work hard for someone else, a white man, to do nothing and make more money then them. The more I do my research and as my paper is coming along I’m realizing how terrible these players are being treated. They are literally working like slaves and getting just as much credit as a slave did for making the plantation a success.

“I have to totally disagree with Adrian Peterson’s comparison to this situation being Modern day slavery..false.. Their is unfortunately actually still slavery existing in our world.. Literal modern day slavery… That was a very misinformed statement,” Ryan Grant, who plays for the Green Bay Packers, posted on a social network called twitter. Of course he did not try to understand exactly why Adrian Peterson said what he said. Why does he agree with Adrian Peterson? Is he really happy with the labors of the NFL? Is he happy because this gives the Packers time to wait for their best players to recover from injuries? Everyone knows football is a competitive sport. If I had time over to make my team better, I would not complain. After recovering from injuries the players get to renegotiate their contract, which means more money in the long run. Ryan Grant was also a injured player who had more time to recover. I dont think no one complain if they were in his shoes.

I analyzed Ryan Grant’s response to Adrian Peterson’s comment to prove why he doesn’t feel the same way as other players about the lockout. Him and his team can benefit form the lockout whereas the lockout will not benefit some teams. Ryan Grant has every right to be okay with the lockout he might not be making as much money as the team owners but the Packers can benefit from the fact that the lockout gives them more time to get the team together.

Overall, I agree with the conclusion that Adrian Peterson was able to come to based on the labor practices of the NFL. Yes, he could of expressed his frustrations in a different  way. He apologized for offending anyone by his comment. Although things could have been said different, its not like his comment was completely wrong. After doing research I can defend his comment by saying the NFL is parellel to slavery which can cause Adrian Peterson and other players  to feel like “a modern day slave.”

Word Cited

Wolff, Alexander. “Marshall Law.” Sports Illustrated 111.14 (2009): 64-65. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

Lomax, Michael E. “The African American Experience In Professional Football.” Journal Of Social History 33.1 (1999): 163. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

Fletcher, George P. “Lincoln And The Thirteenth Amendment.”OAH Magazine Of History 21.1 (2007): 52-55. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

“NFL Files Unfair Labor Practices Charge Against NFLPA.” AOL News. Web. 14 Feb. 2011.

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