Back in the era of slavery — which wasn’t as long ago as racists, conservatives, and the GOP would like you to believe — Black bodies would be stripped naked, or close to it, and put on the auction block where they were sold to the highest white bidders. Their height, weight, skin color, sexual organs, teeth, and anything else you can imagine, were exposed to prove that they were a worthy investment.
Until last week, the Senior Bowl would hold its weigh-ins publicly, in which Black bodies would be stripped down almost naked on stage and put in front of a mostly white audience where their measurements and physical features were called out so that scouts could take the information back to their bosses and franchises could make decisions about their future investments.
See the similarities?
“We felt it was best that weigh-ins be held in a more private setting during our player registration process,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told CBS Sports last week. The comment came after it was very quietly decided in November, according to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports. The director of football operations for the East-West Shrine Bowl, Eric Galko — a white man — even publicly described it as an “antiquated, unnecessary process.”
The irony of it taking until 2022 before one of the most important and historic pre-draft events to realize that they were partaking in slave auction cosplay — during the same week that Brian Flores filed a 58-page lawsuit with text messages from Bill Belichick alleging that the NFL and three of its teams passed him over for jobs just because he’s Black — is direct proof of this being a systemic issue.
It gets even better when you read the statement Flores’ lawyers released after the Houston Texans hired Lovie Smith to be their new head coach when Flores was a finalist, as it hints at collusion.
This isn’t the first time that football has been called out for how they handle the pre-draft process and how it looks and feels a lot like slavery. Colin Kaepernick recently called it out in his Netflix series Colin in Black & White.
“Coaches will tell you they’re looking for warriors, killers, beasts. They say they want you to be an animal out there. And you want to give them that,” Kaepernick says in the series. “Let me tell you something: What they don’t want you to understand is what’s being established is a power dynamic.
“Before they put on the field, teams poke, prod, and examine you. Searching for any defect that might affect your performance. No boundary respected. No dignity left intact.”
In 2017, a similar incident occurred when ESPN came under fire for a skit they did for their Fantasy Draft coverage when a white man auctioned off Black players to a group of white people that wanted to buy them. Odell Beckham Jr. tweeted that he was “speechless” as he was one of the players on the auction block.
Fifteen years ago, William C. Rhoden wrote a book called Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete — it was a New York Times bestseller. Rhoden says that “Black athletes still find themselves on the periphery of true power in the multibillion-dollar industry their talent built,” because to Rhoden, “the power black athletes have today is as limited as when masters forced their slaves to race and fight. The primary difference is, today’s shackles are invisible.” Fifteen years later, Rhoden’s words still apply.