The Slave Side of Sunday, invokes an explosive metaphor to describe life in the NFL. Prior played six NFL seasons with the New York Jets, the Oakland Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings, and developed a reputation as a cornerback with blinding speed, if not blinding stats.
Prior contends that the NFL is rife with a racism that is both deeply institutionalized and largely unchallenged. “I was frustrated by not seeing the truth in print,” Prior told me in a recent interview. “And I believe that if you want to see it, you should write it.
“Black players have created a billion-dollar market but have no voice in the industry, no power. That sounds an awful lot like slavery to me,” he says. “On plantations slaves were respected for their physical skills but were given no respect as thinking beings. On the football field, we are treated as what appears like gods, but in fact this is just the ‘show and tell’ of the management for their spectators. In reality, what is transpiring is that black athletes are being treated with disrespect and degradation. As soon as we take off that uniform, behind the dressing room doors, we are less than human. We are bought and sold. Traded and drafted, like our ancestors, and the public views this as a sport, ironically the same attitude as people had in the slavery era.”
Prior names no names, but he contends that coaches and other authority figures in the game use racism to bully African-American players in an effort to instill obedience. “I’ve heard coaches call players ‘boy,’ ‘porch monkeys,’ ‘sambos,’ ” he says. “Players don’t get tested on their athleticism as much as they get tested on their manhood. Many players rail against this. They say, ‘I’m being treated like a goddamn slave.’ However, as soon as the coach is present, their life becomes doing whatever possible to please this man.