Does the NFL actually perpetuate a slavery mentality

By Raul Patel - Contributor to Jock Smack

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GQ seems to have a penchant for trendy, overpriced clothing and discussing race relations with NFL wide receivers.

Since we don’t feel like showcasing the latest trends in Gucci handbags for men, we’ll simply focus on the latter.

A month ago, the magazine sat down with temperamental Browns wideout Odell Beckham, Jr. digging into his tumultuous tenure with the New York Giants and how race plays a role in everything – even calling out his ethnicity and how critical they can be on social media.

On Tuesday, GQ published an article with Texans All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins as the league’s most underrated wide receiver and dresser. But it was his comments regarding late owner Bob McNair that will raise a few eyebrows.

When McNair referenced kneeling players as “inmates running the prison” it infuriated Hopkins to the point where he left practice and nearly sat out the game that week against the Seahawks in protest of the owner’s absurd comments.

“It feels like I’m a slave again. Listen to the master, go to work,” Hopkins said.

It’s difficult to empathize with an NFL superstar who signed an $81-million dollar contract just two years ago who “feels” like a slave even though there’s no evidence to suggest he endured what it actually feels like to be a slave. 

GQ apparently never followed up on this questionable claim by asking Hopkins about his enslavement having been born in 1992. Hopkins grew up in tiny Central, South Carolina – population about 5,000 – located in the northwest part of the state where he was a three-sport star.   

“Yeah, people don’t understand,” Hopkins told GQ, “I’m from South Carolina. I’m from a real cultured state, where there’s still racism daily. Still, places are segregated. I really didn’t want to play in that game, dog. I was like, ‘(Expletive), this is bigger than a game, man.’ I’ve got to stand for something (for my children). If their daddy don’t stand up, then what the hell am I going to tell them?

Segregation and racism are appalling and despicable, but the institution of slavery is on a whole different level and remains one of the ugliest scars in the history of America.

It’s not to take anything away from Hopkins who was subjected through a very traumatic life that has molded him into the person he is today:

  • His mother was burned with boiling chemicals and left to die when DeAndre was 10.
  • His father was a drug dealer who died in a car crash
  • His uncle was fatally shot by police during an attack on his wife
  • HIs cousin attempted suicide and was left with permanent eye damage

It’s actually rather remarkable that Hopkins has not only survived these brutal life-changing events, but he’s now one of the league’s most feared wide receivers.

Still for Hopkins to compare his situation to how his ancestors were treated marginalizes what they endured in a very segregated South. Hopkins admits in the interview that his ties to slavery came through his family experiences.

“It’s hard for people to understand what that means, when your family was slaves. You can’t relate to something like that if your great-uncle’s not telling you stories about their parents or their grandparents and what they went through. Not even too long ago, people couldn’t even drink out of the same water faucet. Not even 100 years ago,” Hopkins added.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time the NFL has been connected to this notion of slavery.

In 2011, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson compared NFL labor as a “modern-day slavery” after owners refused to divulge their financial statements on the day they locked out the players.

In December 2018, NBA superstar Lebron James slammed NFL owners as “old white men” with a “slave mentality” on his HBO show “The Shop.”

“In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams, and they got that slave mentality,” Lebron said, “And it’s like, ‘This is my team. You do what the fuck I tell y’all to do or we get rid of y’all.”

The only way to change this so-called culture of “slavery” within the ranks of NFL ownership is to create diversification.

The possibility of adding rap mogul Jay-Z – who recently partnered with the NFL – as the first black owner you might think would be a huge step in the right direction for changing the stereotype.