Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson lashed out at NFL owners in a Friday interview on Yahoo! Sports, comparing the NFL to “modern-day slavery.”
“People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too,” Peterson said. “With all the money . . . the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money.”
Now another prominent running back, Rashard Mendenhall of the Steelers, has weighed in on the subject and agrees with Peterson’s take.
“@AdrianPeterson is correct in his analogy of this game,” Mendenhall wrote on his verified Twitter account. “It is a lot deeper than most people understand. Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say that these two parallel each other.”
Mendenhall was criticized by some Twitter followers, but defended his comments this way:
“The easiest thing for a person to do when they don't understand something is to call it crazy,” he wrote. “When you look over the course of history at any great thinker, they had ideas that were not common at that time. And people called them stupid, dumb, ignorant. That’s because they couldn’t comprehend a new idea.”
He added: “If you look back and dissect what I said, I didn’t say that the NFL was slavery, I said that they parallel each other. Look up the word parallel. This means that they’re not the same thing, but they run the same course. These paths will never cross, but they mirror each other. I could break down how, but that would take an amount of ideology and big words that a lot of you wouldn’t understand.”
Mendenhall also wrote: “Outside of the dollar amounts you see on TV, you don't know what's going on with the inner workings of this business. It’s bigger than what you people on the outside see on Sundays, see on ESPN, read about in the paper.”
Mendenhall isn’t likely to win a popularity contest with his comments, especially in the wake of criticism aimed at Peterson, not only by fans, but by some players.
“I have to totally disagree with Adrian Peterson’s comparison to this situation being Modern day slavery. . . false,” Packers running back Ryan Grant wrote on Twitter. “There is unfortunately actually still slavery existing in our world. Literal modern day slavery.. That was a very misinformed statement. I understand what point he was trying to make.. I just feel like he should have been advised a little differently.”
Indeed, it is a slippery slope to invoke comparisons of slavery to the NFL’s labor situation, even with all the enmity created by the breakdown in negotiations last week that led to a decertification by the NFL Players Association, followed by a lockout by the owners. Are their inequities in the NFL's system? Of course there are, which is why the two sides have been unable to come to an agreement.
But this is also a league where the players and the owners are business partners who at this point are stuck on how to share $9 billion in annual television revenue. Compare it to other labor union struggles in modern history, but using slavery as an analogy is simply going too far and only serves to exacerbate tensions that are already high on both sides.