After Taking a Knee, Black NFL Players Need to Take Over the NFL Players Association #BlackLeadershipMatters

After Taking a Knee, Black NFL Players Need to Take Over the NFL Players Association #BlackLeadershipMatters

Warning: This blog is long and contains a lot of information, but it's worth the read. And since you can't watch a new NFL game today, you might as read about the real NFL game.

I wish more people understood that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s greatest legacy was not just protesting unjust laws and organizing boycotts. His greatest legacy was working within the political system to pass Civil Rights laws and compel government enforcement. In the 49'ers final preseason game on September 1, 2016, Colin Kaepernick took his first knee to use his massive sports platform to denounce and shine a light on the scourge of racism and police brutality in America and I was so proud of him. His protest followed in the heroic footsteps of Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, and Craig Hodges. But when Kaep admitted to not voting in the November 2016 election that propelled Donald Trump and all his ignorance and hatred to the White House, I have to say my pride in him was shaken.

In America, voting in an election is the easiest and most important thing a person of color can and should do to demand change. After the election, I wondered if a “woke” Kaepernick didn’t exercise his basic right to vote, what else is he and other Black National Football League (NFL) players sleeping on? Then Kaepernick decided to exercise his free agency clause which led to him being black balled by the NFL owners and I found my answer. The Black players of the NFL are asleep on the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). After taking a knee, the Black Players need to take over the NFLPA.

BACKGROUND ON UNIONS

From the website, The National Football League Players Association “is the union for professional football players in the National Football League. Established in 1956, the NFLPA has a long history of assuring proper recognition and representation of players’ interests. The NFLPA has shown that it will do whatever is necessary to assure that the rights of players are protected-including ceasing to be a union, if necessary, as it did in 1989.”

Kaepernick tried to tell you

From Wikipedia, the National Football League Players Association, or NFLPA, is the labor organization representing the professional American football players in the National Football League (NFL). The NFLPA, which has headquarters in Washington, D.C., is led by president J. C. Tretter and executive director DeMaurice Smith. Founded in 1956, the NFLPA is the second-oldest labor union of the four major professional sports leagues; it was established to provide players with formal representation to negotiate compensation and the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The NFLPA is a member of the AFL–CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States.

Living in the city of Chicago, I understand the value and strength of unions. When the leaders of powerful Chicago unions like the Teamster, Chicago Teacher’s Union, and Fraternal Order of Police speak, the politicians and city leaders listen. To the politicians, the unions represent a large voting block and a large financial block. The union is a collective voice of the workers and it can cause a lot of trouble when the people they represent are not happy. The union also provides a safe space for players to air grievances and bargain collectively which is especially important in the NFL since many of the owners operate like they are slave masters on a plantation. On the NFL plantation, the workers/players are paid well, but as we have seen they don't have the freedom to express themselves. Black players will be black balled by the owners if they cause too much trouble and the NFLPA as the player's union is supposed to keep that from happening. Kaepernick and other Black players who took a knee with him were black balled and the NFLPA has not done nearly enough to help.

In an August 2017 interview with Deadspin (click here to read the article), the former NFLPA union president Eric Winston said, “We've been in contact with Colin's representatives, and we've let them know that we're there and ready to help with whatever they'd like—whether it's just some guidance on PR or whatever.” He continued with some platitudes about "the union's always stood ready", "We will continue to monitor that situation" and concluded with "At the end of the day, that's really it." When asked directly about Kaepernick being blackballed by the NFL owners he answered, "You definitely get that feeling—obviously, that's very hard to prove and it's very hard to show." Bottom line was the NFLPA President was not actively helping or advocating for Kaepernick which is not how unions are supposed to work. Eric Winston, a white man, is no longer the NFLPA President.

When I google NFLPA and Colin Kaepernick, the only official statement I found was on the NFLPA website and it's so sad and pathetic.

"Today, we were informed by the NFL of the settlement of the Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid collusion cases. We are not privy to the details of the settlement, but support the decision by the players and their counsel. We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them. We are glad that Eric has earned a job and a new contract, and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well." - NFLPA February 15, 2019 Statement 

I'm assuming this statement was written by the NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Fitzgerald. As executive director he is the principal administrative officer and his previous work experience includes being the Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia and was Counsel to then Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. From the NFLPA website, this Black man is a graduate of Cedarville University and the University of Virginia School of Law. Smith is on the Faculty of the National Trial Advocacy College in Charlottesville, Virginia; Executive in Residence and the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia, and is a guest lecturer at Georgetown University, Columbia University, Harvard University, George Washington University, and the University of Virginia School of Law. He has also been a guest speaker at the New York Stock Exchange, Commencement speaker for the University of Maryland and for the Howard University School of Law (2012). You would think DeMaurice Fitzgerald would be too busy advocating for the NFL Players to have time to speak at so many universities and Wallstreet, but I guess he makes time to collect those hefty speaker fees.

BACKGROUND ON HOW THE NFLPA FITS INTO THE NFL PLANTATION

NFL White Supremacy

The United States of America was built as a Slave Labor society. After a civil war, America shifted to capitalism. Since white Americans now had to pay for labor, they utilized white supremacy and racism so they could pay their past slaves/now employees as little as possible. The American economy has always been profit over people. Corporate America is the new plantation. Our new slave masters can no longer beat us and torture our families, so they had to find other methods to control us. Just a few way our corporate America masters and overseers control us are by tying our health care to their employment, manipulating the unfree job market by operating as monopolies, colluding to suppress wages, prohibiting conversations about salary, and union busting.

HOW IS THE NFL PLANTATION ORGANIZED?

The NFL is a monopoly that is divided into 32 teams (AKA plantations AKA companies AKA brands) equally divided between the National Football Conference (NFC) and American Football Conference (AFC). Each team is a billion dollar company. 31 of the NFL teams are privately held by owners (AKA slave masters). The Green Bay Packers are the ONLY public company owned by the fans (as a Chicagoan, this is the only reason to cheer for the Packers). Most teams are run by families (pack oppressors) which pass the teams from generation to generation amassing billions for their families insuring generation wealth and securing their white supremacy.

On August 20, 1920 (100 years ago), a group of owners formed the American Professional Football Conference (APFC) to "raise the standard of professional football in every way possible, to eliminate bidding for players between rival clubs and to secure cooperation in the formation of schedules". The APFC would become the NFL which operates as the "parent or umbrella company" of the 32 teams. From Wikipedia, the NFL is one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, the highest professional level of American football in the world, the wealthiest professional sport league by revenue, and the sport league with the most valuable teams.

From Wikipedia, At the corporate level, the National Football League considers itself a trade association made up of and financed by its 32 member teams. Up until 2015, the league was an unincorporated nonprofit 501(c) association. The NFL gave up the tax exempt status in 2015 following public criticism of Commission Roger Goodell $44 million salary as the league dealt with various scandals throughout the last year. Because the NFL no longer operates as a tax exempt entity, they are no longer required to publicly disclose the commissioner's salary. The league could still elect to disclose his salary in future years, but they haven't so far.

From Wikipedia, NFL revenue is from three primary sources: NFL Ventures (merchandising), NFL Enterprises (NFL Network and NFL Sunday Ticket, which the league controls), and the television contract. The league distributes such revenue equally among teams, regardless of performance. As of February 2019 each team receives $255 million annually from the league's television contract, up 150% from $99.9 million in 2010.[48]

Most NFL teams' financial statements are secret. The Kansas City Star obtained the Kansas City Chiefs' tax returns for 2008–2010. According to the Star, the team's revenue rose from $231 million in 2008 to $302 million in 2010. In 2010, two thirds of revenue came from the league: $99.8 million from NFL Ventures ($55.3 million) and NFL Enterprises ($44.6 million), and the $99.9 million share of the television contract. The remaining one third was from tickets ($42.4 million), corporate sponsorships ($6.6 million), food sales ($5 million), parking passes ($4.7 million), in-stadium advertising ($3.7 million), radio contract ($2.7 million), and miscellaneous sources.

The largest Chiefs expense in 2010 was $148 million for players, coaches, and other employees. Of the $38 million in operating income, Clark, Lamar Jr., two other children, and widow of former team owner Lamar Hunt divided $17.6 million, and reinvested the remaining $20 million into the team.

According to economist Richard D. Wolff, the NFL's revenue model is in contravention of the typical corporate structure. By redistributing profits to all teams the NFL is ensuring that one team will not dominate the league through excessive earnings. Roger Noll described the revenue sharing as the league's "most important structural weakness", however, as there is no disincentive against a team playing badly and the largest cost item, player salaries, is capped.

WHO CONTROLS THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE?

The owners. Roger Goodell is their overseer but like the players, he is also their employee. He gives advice to the owners and at the end of the day if they don't like his advice he can be fired.

HOW IS THE NFLPA organized?

Don't Complain

From the website, The Board elects the NFLPA executive officers from among its ranks. The executive officers include the President and ten (10) Vice Presidents. The Executive Director is the principal administrative officer. The officers and the Executive Director are members of the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee manages and transacts the business and affairs of the NFLPA between meetings of the Board of Player Representatives. Executive officers are elected for a two-year term in even-numbered years at the annual meeting of the Board of Player Representatives. They must have been members in good standing for one-year to be eligible to serve.

The executive committee consists of the following current and retired NFL players:

  • President J. C. Tretter, center with the Cleveland Browns from Batavia, NY (white)
  • Vice President Sam Acho, outside linebacker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Dallas, TX (Black)
  • Vice President Lorenzo Alexander, outside linebacker retired from the Buffalo Bills from Oakland, CA (Black)
  • Vice President Calais Campbell, defensive end with the Baltimore Ravens from Denver, CO (Black)
  • Vice President Malcolm Jenkins, safety with the New Orleans Saints from East Orange, NJ (Black)
  • Treasurer Alex Mack, center with the Atlanta Falcons from Los Angeles, CA (white)
  • Vice President Thomas Morstead, punter and kick off specialist with the New Orleans Saints from Houston, TX (Black)
  • Vice President Richard Sherman, cornerback with the San Francisco 49'ers from Compton, CA (Black)
  • Vice President Michael Thomas, safety with the Houston Texans from Houston, TX (Black)
  • Vice President Benjamin Watson, tight end retired from the New England Patriots from Norfolk, VA (Black)
  • Vice President Wesley Woodyard, linebacker formerly with the Tennessee Titans and currently a free agent from LaGrange, GA (Black)

Another leadership position in the NFLPA are the player representatives. Player Representatives are selected by their teammates in the fall of every even-numbered year. As in any union, the player representatives are the first line of defense for the NFL player in working with the NFL owners. This leadership position can put player's in a precarious position with the owner. If the player representative pushes back too hard on the owners or represents their teammates grievance too vigorous, the owners can enact revenge against the player representatives when it's time to negotiate their own contract. I have been told that many Black players would like to be more active in the NFLPA leadership, but they fear repercussions from the owners.

WHAT SHOULD BE NEXT FOR THE BLACK NFL PLAYERS?

Change

After taking a knee, Black NFL Players need to model the strategies employed by the Black NBA (National Basketball Association) players to strengthen their positions in the NFLPA. Leadership matters!

The NBA players union is the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). The 2020 Executive Committee is comprised of following nine members:

  • President Chris Paul (Black)
  • First Vice President Andre Iguodala (Black)
  • Secretary-Treasurer Anthony Tolliver (Black)
  • Vice President Bismack Biyombo (Black)
  • Vice President Malcolm Brogdon (Black)
  • Vice President Jaylen Brown (Black)
  • Vice President Kyrie Irving (Black)
  • Vice President C. J. McCollum (Black)
  • Vice President Garrett Temple (Black)

Past Presidents have included Isiah Thomas and Patrick Ewing. Past Vice Presidents have included Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, and LeBron James.

From the website, the Executive Director of the NBPA since 2014 is Michele Roberts who works ardently on behalf of NBA players to ensure their rights are protected and that they are fairly compensated for the great value they bring to the court and as ambassadors of the game. Roberts has also been at the forefront of helping players recognize the power of their voice in pursuit of social consciousness as it relates to mental health, political activism, racial injustice and more.

In 2018, The National Basketball Players Association unanimously elected Michele Roberts to serve another four-year term as executive director. Roberts was hired in the wake of the firing of former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter amid serious concerns about his business practices in the position. Roberts described many players as "quite suspicious" of the union when she was first hired. This Black woman is the first woman to hold the title of executive director for one of the top four North American professional sports players unions and she is retiring this year.

The percentage of Black players in the NBA is 74%.
The percentage of Black players on the executive committee of the NBPA is 100%.

The percentage of Black players in the NFL is 70%.
The percentage of Black players on the executive committee of the NFLPA is 81%. The two white players on the board control the agenda and the finances from their seats as President and Treasurer.

Last week, a group of NFL players released a powerful video calling on the NFL to support Black players, call out racism and admit “wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting” amid the death of George Floyd. After taking a knee and drawing a line the sand, now is the time to take over the NFLPA and get the owners' knees off the Black players' necks! #BlackLivesMatter #BlackLeadershipMatters #SayHisNameColinKaepernick

 

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