September 1, 2015
The ‘Slave Side’ of NFL Sundays
Posted on Mar 9, 2006
By James Harris
It sounds to me like you’re saying that the history of the NFL has led it to a racist presence now, and that this is built into the framework of the league.
Absolutely. Racism in the NFL exists in the 21st century. You see, there was one point in time black players were a little bit above 70%, and today we’re at 65, you see, this is all by design. Because once they get our numbers down to 50%, there’s going to be no argument for the black athlete. Because the white athlete, he’s represented very well. He gots 32 owners, he gots 25 of the head coaches, are white. The administration, 89% are white. He’s represented very well. But in my opinion, the white athlete is not made to be the black man’s equal on the field. But as long as you’re being represented well, at high places, you know football’s a team sport and team sports can be manipulated. You can take a below-average player and surround him with great players to compensate his weaknesses. And that’s what’s going on today. That’s why the white athlete is present. He’s present with steroids, and he’s present with people in high places making decisions for him, allowing him to play on the field. Just like arena football: You condense the field, you don’t gotta be that fast, you don’t gotta be that agile. That’s allowing more white players to play.
More people can become competitive. And it sounds like similar things are happening in the NBA. The game is changing in such a way that a different level of competition has become possible.
Absolutely. You got a lot of white players that are outside shooters, and that myth that black players are only good enough to dunk and rebound. When you control the game, you can put people you want on the game. Sports—team sports—is just like a chess board. As long as the weak go up against the weak, and the strong go up against the strong, everybody looks good.
Square, Site wide
[Laughs] Very true. Very true. Anthony, how different is the argument you’re making in your new book, “The Slave Side of Sunday,” how different is your argument from the traditional one, that said—where black people were calling for their 40 acres and a mule, which they were promised, of course, by the government. How different is your argument from that? What solution do you have? Give me something that listeners, that players can be proactive about in solving this problem, as opposed to something that they would be reactive about? [Like:] “Hey, the NFL isn’t giving me this, they aren’t doing this, and we’re suffering as a result of it.”
You know what I would love to see?
And I believe a lot of other players would love to see? Have a black players union where our voice can be represented, our interests can be heard. Any time if you’re the labor force you’re gonna need somebody speaking for you. I know Gene Upshaw—.
Who is the director of the players union and is a black man. How do you think he’s done so far? I know there’s a far cry between having one black man as the all encompassing leader of every player in the NFL, versus what you’re suggesting as having a specific union that deals specifically with issues for black folk.
What kind of change, anything specific?
I would like to see somebody that is more boisterous, somebody that is more willing to speak out on racism and hypocrisy that is so prevalent in the NFL today, and make—let’s see some real changes. I know they got the Rooney rule.
Which is, what is the Rooney rule?
The Rooney rule is when a coach [position] is available in the NFL, they have to interview one minority. That’s good, it can kind of go both ways. Even though a franchise in the NFL already knows which coach they want to hire—his buddy, which is white, that’s in the other room—let’s go ahead and fly in this black coach, let’s just interview him, pay for his hotel and his airline flight, interviewed him, we did our quota, OK, bye, then we can go ahead and hire who we originally wanted to hire.
That’s not good enough. Allow players to vote on their president, their head coach, on their head chief in charge. Let players have some say-so, and I guarantee you’ll have more black coaches in the NFL, whether it’s head coach or assistant coach. Players vote on our peers, to go to the Pro Bowl, who’s good enough [for] the Pro Bowl. How come we can’t vote on our coaches, who we think that can lead us to the Super Bowl, who can lead us to the promised land.
Anything specifically from the text that you want to share related to that?
Just like black players having their own democracy on the football field. If we’re 70% of the NFL, we generate the money, we’re the oil, we’re the engine behind this industry, because without the black sweat on Sunday afternoon, leagues would crumble. The NFL would crumble, so we need to have more say-so. We need to have our own democracy.
So you’re not calling for the NFL to do this. You’re calling for black players, black managers and black money, which there’s been over 500 players to cash out a million dollars in this game. I’d be calling for those guys to make some changes.
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