As we noted earlier Tuesday, Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson is part of a new online reality show and is doing some promotional work for it. ESPN.com's interview can be found over on Page 2. But I think Doug Farrar’s interview over at Yahoo! Sports will resonate for some time.
In the interview, conducted moments after the NFL Players Association decertified last Friday and posted Tuesday, Peterson called the NFL’s arrangement with his players "modern-day slavery" and a "rip-off." He added that players "are getting robbed" and all but provided a caricature of a modern-day athlete with no touch on reality.
*Update: The words "modern-day slavery" no longer appear in the Yahoo! Sports post, but the author has confirmed via Twitter that Peterson used it during the interview. For an explanation of why it was removed, check Farrar's Twitter feed.)
*Update II: Late Tuesday afternoon, Farrar restored the full quote.
Here are the key quotes, as they appeared in original post:
On his message to people who are tired of labor talk:
Adrian Peterson: We're business-minded, also. It's not just fun and games. A lot of football players, whether it's Sunday or Monday night -- we're out there on the field, competing, hitting each other. But people don't see everything else behind it. It's a job for us, too -- every day of the week. We're in different states, sometimes thousands of miles away from our families and kids, and a lot of people don't look at it like that. All some people see is, 'Oh, we're not going to be around football.' But how the players look at it … the players are getting robbed. They are. The owners are making so much money off of us to begin with. I don't know that I want to quote myself on that…
On other players feeling the same way:
AP: It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money … the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money. I understand that; these are business-minded people. Of course this is what they are going to want to do. I understand that; it's how they got to where they are now. But as players, we have to stand our ground and say, 'Hey -- without us, there's no football.' There are so many different perspectives from different players, and obviously we're not all on the same page -- I don't know. I don't really see this going to where we'll be without football for a long time; there's too much money lost for the owners. Eventually, I feel that we'll get something done.
But this crazy idea about an 18-game season … I'm sure they want more entertainment and more revenue, but we're not going to see a pinch of that (the increased revenue), and it's just the business we're in.
I’ve gotten to know Peterson a little bit over the past four years, visiting his house once and meeting part of his family for a profile I wrote of him in my newspaper days. Unless something has changed dramatically, I’ve always found him to be a thoughtful, earnest and charitable human being. He has in many ways been the opposite of the caricature he’s now fulfilled. But I'm sorry, I can’t offer him any defense in this instance.
Let’s skip the usual arguments about spoiled athletes and their sense of entitlement, and focus squarely on a term that should never, ever be used to describe anything -- let alone a job that will compensate Peterson $10.72 million in 2011.
There is no such thing as "modern-day slavery" unless the instance includes the complete denial of human rights, unjust incarceration and physical force used to require free work. Anything short of that is a bad deal, not "modern-day slavery." Owners might profit off players, perhaps disproportionately to what the players themselves receive, but everyone is making money and no one is there against their will.
I’m guessing Peterson intended to use the analogy to describe what he might consider an unequal distribution of the NFL’s $9 billion in revenues. Still, I hope he realizes how inappropriate it is to put the situation of NFL players anywhere in the stratosphere of slavery.
The conflict between NFL owners and players won’t be settled by public opinion. But Peterson certainly didn’t do himself or his union colleagues any favors with this series of comments. What he said was so offensive, even for someone who has no track record of controversial comments, that I think it will paint both sides of this lockout with the brush of greed and inhumanity. Let me know when this whole labor thing is over. Please.