A few weeks ago on Twitter, I heard someone call the NFL Combine one of the most troubling events in professional sports. They stated that it was reminiscent of a cattle exchange, where players are poked, prodded, and put on display. Their argument was that these events are similar to slavery in the early years of American culture where slaves were put on stages and people were invited in to survey what they had to offer and bid on them.
If you are familiar with William Rhoden’s book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves, you know that this ideology has been presented in several forms in history. Rhoden himself received criticism for his analogy of slavery. That being said, this week, NFL Network has more than three hundred NFL draft prospects subjecting themselves to workouts, bizarre intelligence tests, psychological screenings and prodding physical exams. At this year’s combine, like the players interviewed for the study, many will find the experience invasive at best and, at times, degrading. Worst of all, perhaps, is that many black and white athletes will liken it to a slave market.
In essence, the combine is not a slave market. It is a venue for potential NFL players to display their talents and abilities. I am sure it sounds a lot like what we have heard in our history books that slaves went through, but I think that the scouts from the various teams have every right to examine players from head-to-toe, because they will be investing hundreds of thousands and, possibly, millions of dollars into those players.
Yes, I said millions of dollars. Slaves came nowhere near getting paid. In my honest opinion, if a player doesn’t want to be evaluated, then he doesn’t have to go. Being poked and prodded for a couple of days are a small price to pay for fame, life-long financial security, and the chance to play the game one loves for a living. There are millions of men across the country who would switch places with them in a heartbeat, so calling it a meat market is absolutely absurd.
The difference is slaves didn’t have a choice. They were subjected to these events and no means of compensation was ever going to come their way. These athletes are putting themselves on display, because they want to be recognized and compensated for the hard work that they might have put in to separate themselves from their competitors.
It is amazing that the combine can be compared to a slave market. This is, by far, an overstatement, a lack of facts, and a poor historical comparison. Simply put, these athletes are trying to cash in on their athletic ability. The sizes of the salaries they will get are several times larger than what they could compete for in any other market (in most cases), especially more money than the one their education has prepared them for.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!
Color Commentator for Time Warner Cable Sports Network NC/SC/OH and NCCU Sports Network. Washed up athlete who used to ball, now I write and call.