Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashard Mendenhall Says NFL 'Parallels' Slavery

Charles HoweCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Running back Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball against the New York Jets during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 24-19. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

After the NFL owners locked out the players, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings opened a can of worms by saying, "It's modern-day slavery, you know?"Β 

On Twitter, Rashard Mendenhall supported Peterson's comments by stating, "Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say that these two parallel each other."

Many fans were upset with Mendenhall and reacted very negatively to his comment.

People insulted him by calling him everything from overpaid to uneducated.

In an attempt to clarify his comments, Mendenhall sent a series of tweets that came off as slightly condescending and didn't help matters.

"If you look back and dissect what I said, I [didn't] say that the NFL was slavery, I said that they parallel each other. Look up the word parallel."

"This means that they're not the same thing, but they run the same course. These paths will never cross, but they mirror each other."

"I could break down how, but that would take an amount of ideology and big words that a lot of you wouldn't understand."

One of the biggest problems with expressing ones self on Twitter is that it is hard to make a decent point in 140 characters or less. But do Peterson and Mendenhall have a valid point?

It's easy to dismiss their statements just by taking a look at their respective salaries.

Slaves were never multimillionaires like Mendenhall and Peterson. Even players that make league minimum are rewarded handsomely by most fans' standards.

Another reason that these men's statements are so controversial is because players can choose whether to play in the NFL or not, whereas slaves were given no choice whether to be slaves or not.

However, beneath the surface, there are some similarities: similarities such as the NFL combine. Players are poked and prodded much like slaves were when they were at the slave markets.

Furthermore, players can be cut or traded with no notice, uprooting them from their homes in the cities in which they play. This is similar to the way slave owners could sell slaves to other men without any consideration as to how this would affect the slave.

Of course, the NFL is not the only organization that could have possible parallels to slavery.

The U.S. military examines potential recruits very closely as well.

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are also expected to maintain physical fitness standards. If these servicemen and servicewomen don't maintain the minimum physical fitness standards, they can be separated from the military.

Other jobs can lay workers off with or without notice. Employees can be forced to relocate or lose their jobs.

The NFL has been compared to slavery in the past.

At least two books have been written on the matter. However, many of the past complaints have to do with white owners and coaches using racial slurs and benching black athletes for things as trivial as being seen with a white woman.

The players that fall victim to this behavior are often powerless to do anything for fear of losing their position on the team.

It's hard to imagine that Adrian Peterson and Rashard Mendenhall encounter these types of problems from their respective coaches. Leslie Frazier, the Vikings coach, and Mike Tomlin, the Steelers coachΒ are both black.

All-in-all, the comparison to slavery was a poor choice of words, but it has some merit.

Most people can rattle off a litany of examples of unfair practices in the work force.

That's the underlying point that Peterson and Mendenhall are trying to make; the NFL is not as fair as it should be to the players. Without players, there is no NFL.

However, not many people are going to sympathize with men that make so much money, especially when many Americans face similar hardships for much less compensation.

Next time, Peterson and Mendenhall should choose their words more carefully.

Even though they are free to say whatever they choose thanks to the first amendment, and even though the comparison they are trying to draw between the NFL and slavery isn't completely inaccurate, they should recognize that making statements like that is going to be unpopular.

They have not helped their cause, and may have actually hindered themselves.