“The sports industry is not just a signature aspect of the American way of life, but has also become a major component of the American economy. What distinguishes sports from other industries is the nature of its raw material: For the past fifty years, the prime raw resource in has been Black muscle.


The work of the industry is to extract those bodies from where they primarily reside—in the Black neighborhoods or rural and urban America—and put them to work.” (William C. Rhoden, ‘The Forty Million Dollar Slaves’ pg 174)

My friend sports writer extraordinaire John Harris loaned me a signed copy of ‘The Forty Million Dollar Slaves’ by William C. Rhoden of the New York Times to read a couple of years ago. I just got around to reading it. How appropriate this piece of literature is in regards to this current NFL work stoppage. The book caused me to look at the NFL owners almost as if they are modern day slave traders.

It seems to me that the time is drawing nigh for the NFLPA and the NFL to either let loose or get off the potty. There is mucho Grande dinero to be made and whatever unresolved issues that stand between the Massas and de slaves had better be resolved post haste before there is a rebellion.

Trust me boys and girls the artificial countdown to the end of this economic standoff between millionaires and billionaires will not be “sucka” free. Look at ya. You should all be ashamed of being sucked in by the NFL and its players. This “lockout” looks like a pimp’s convention in Vegas with all of the “flesh brokers” gathering to figure out how to lobby legislators to enact legislation to make certain “street corner transactions in the night” legal in all fifty states, or at least find slick ways to get around existing laws. When you go out and buy that sandwich ring or case of ribs or beer and your favorite player’s jersey, it is just plain simple lads and lassies, ya been had. The money you have already spent means nothing. Only future dollars mean anything to the NFL and the NFLPA.

Most players remain silent on critical issues political and racial because unlike the Constitution, in professional sports there is no such thing as “free speech.” If you do not believe me ask Steelers All-Universe linebacker James Harrison or soon to be Hall-of Fame wide receiver, Hines Ward. They had the nerve to criticize Commissioner Roger Goodell and Ben Roethlisberger. For their comments they were tied to an electronic whipping post. It was brutal the way they were vilified for identifying the villains. Harrison was recently quoted in mensjournal.com as saying: “My rep is James Harrison, mean son of a bitch who loves hitting the hell out of people,” he says. “But up until last year, there was no word of me being dirty—till Roger Goodell, who’s a crook and a puppet, said I was the dirtiest player in the league. I hate him and will never respect him.” Ward had this to say to NBC sportscaster Bob Costas right before an important game in Baltimore in 2009 that Roethlisberger had to sit out because of a concussion. “This game is almost like a playoff game. It’s almost a must-win. I could see some players or teammates questioning, like ‘It’s just a concussion. I’ve played with a concussion before.’”

Rhoden analyses NBA legend Michael Jordan this way: “Michael Jordan is one of the most intriguing athletes of the twentieth century, a sports icon like Babe Ruth but not a paragon of principal like Muhammad Ali. Jordan was a marketing maven who never capitalized on his potential to mobilize African American athletes. Had he said, “Jump” they would have jumped. Instead he chose to remain publicly neutral in all matters political and racial. The essence of Jordan’s legacy is what he accomplished; the tragedy is what he could have done.”

Take a look at a few situations that have occurred in Pittsburgh alone. When Jonny Gammage was beaten to death in 1995, the only pro athlete that spoke out publicly was his cousin, former Steelers defensive tackle Ray Seals. Just recently when Jordan Miles was assaulted by the Pittsburgh police there were no professional athletes speaking out against the brutality. The only time that we generally hear them speaking out aside of their exploits on the field or the court is when they are apologizing about some act of stupidity or DUI that they are being arrested and charged for.

My final point is if this lockout and the issues surrounding it are so important, why aren’t the players talking about it? Why, because everyone knows when the slaves are finally freed, there is no place for them to go but back to the plantation.

Read more excerpts from the New York Times best seller, ‘The Forty Million Dollar Slaves’ by William C. Rhoden on: http://www.amazon.com

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: 412-583-6741 or abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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