The ‘Slave Side’ of NFL Sundays
Posted on Mar 9, 2006
By James Harris
So in that respect it’s not the “40 acres” argument, it’s kind of a black community introspective, it’s saying, hey, this is what we need to change and this is why we need to change it. Kids are affected, athletes are affected, and ultimately the black community is affected by this lack of action in the NFL.
Absolutely. Gene Upshaw cannot make no changes. The person that can make the chance is the assembly of black players. Individually people can shout, and have rhetoric and talk all day long. But when you assemble, you come together as a group, that’s powerful.
I’m talking to a gentleman by the name of Robert Morris who is the founder and CEO of a group called Center for Diversity. He says—and I think you guys agree on this—he says that black people need a shift in mind-set. His quote is that blacks collectively need to understand that the NFL is about profit and not about humanitarian efforts.
So I think Morris is saying that it is about capitalism, it is about money, and so these people put money in the hands and control of teams in the hands of people they’re close to and people that they grew up with. I think that the problems you mention with regard to the lack of diversity and the lack of true commitment to getting black people in there is problematic, just like affirmative action has become problematic in that people are trying to fill quotas.
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That’s where affirmative action goes wrong, that’s where diversity programs go wrong. How could the NFL solve that political issue, how could they move past just saying “hey we’re gonna interview a black guy” into an area where they’d actually consider a black guy?
We’ve got to take some of the control out of their hands and into the hands of players, to have a little more of a balance when it comes to hiring coaches, when it comes to hiring a leader to try to take team into the Superbowl and win a championship.
If I’m a player, man! I wanna have some say-so of what coach and what philosophy he’s bringing in. You know, when the head coach and the team is about to sign a free agent, a high-profile player, there’s dialogue between the coach and players: “We’re gonna bring him, what do you guys think about it?”
It’s the same thing with Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens they were talkin’ at the Super Bowl. Dovovan was puttin’ in word to the coaches and the coaches were talking with teammates—“we’re gonna bring in Terrell Owens”—and everybody agreed!
So we need to have that same opportunity when a coach comes in, we gotta have a better relationship with the president and the general manager. He needs to come down and say we’re gonna hire a few coaches, we got five on our list, and then the president and the general manager can address the team, with the coach’s qualifications, his philosophy, and see if he’s the best man for the job—based on his qualifications, not on his skin color.
Why don’t more players say “I want 10 million dollars, plus 6 million dollars of equity in this team?” Why don’t more players actually have written into their contract—I want team equity—so then it becomes a shared ownership, then they start to care about some of the decisions that are made?
They’re involved in the managerial process, they’re involved in the capitalist process, and it’s not just a social argument, it’s not just “do this for me because I get help or I need help or I was discriminated in the past,” it’s because I have equity in this team and I care about this team and I value this team. It surprises me that more players haven’t done that. What do you think about that?
The players that are presently in the NFL today—you’ve got a few warriors here and there, you got a few that have a consciousness to speak out, a consciousness for better compensation, but they feel that they are gonna be blackballed.
That’s why you gotta have a voice, you gotta have something separate from the NFL players association. You gotta have a black voice, you gotta have a black players association so issues like that policies can be written in bylaws, that can be effective.
Until you have a bylaw, you have a policy, ideas are just great [gravy].
Can a group of black NFL professionals really come together and really make a change?
Absolutely. I think it would be great to get some ex-players, that have contributed very well to the NFL, establish that outside voice, be able to have policies to where some of the profits these NFL owners have—they could go into where they recruit their players, some of these ghettos in America where they’re getting their prize-winning machines, you know start developing some of these communities, you know, policies like that.
That way everybody benefits. Because right now we got great individual achievement in our communities and our cities, but collectively, black people, we’re not—we have some, that collectively have a strong voice collectively gettin’ things done, but we need to see it more on a bigger scale.
And perhaps the book, “Slave Side of Sunday,” will be a start to that coming together.
Just last night I was hosting and I gave a presentation at the Fontana NAACP viewing party of the NAACP Image Awards last night, and there was over 200 people there, really first class. I got a chance to really let loose and let ‘em know what’s coming and I had over 50 people pre-order the book, so they wanna put a book show on for me, so, you know—
It starts with the community first, and if the community doesn’t back you, you’re not gonna be heard. So right now the campaign has started, and thanks for you giving me this radio interview. It all just gets the ball rolling.
The “Slave Side of Sunday,” Stone Hold Books, tell us a little bit about who publishes that book.
Stone Hold Books, that’s my publishing company. I started it in 2003, because when I first wrote a proposal, I sent my proposal out to major publishers, and a few got back to me, but they said they wanted to turn my story into a fiction story and change the title.
They said it’s gonna take about a year, year and a half to get the book out.
So I said to myself no way, can’t nobody tell my story better than me. I’m not gonna put my dream, my vision on hold for nobody.
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