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No matter what NFL players may be doing in the offseason, the ongoing labor negotiations are never far from their minds. Even stars like Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson have strong feelings on the issues being debated by NFL players and team owners, who are fighting over how to divide the league's estimated $9.3 billion in revenue.
Speaking just minutes after the owners locked out the players, Peterson compared the players' place in the game to "modern-day slavery," a statement that, while ill-advised, was made in the context of how the players feel they're being treated in these talks. (Note: Based on the context in which the comments were made, I do not believe that Peterson was actually equating his current position in the NFL with any kind of slavery. I will update this piece if he clarifies his statement.) What follows is our full interview.
See the controversial quote in its entirety here.
SC: We're talking about 15 minutes after the NFLPA sent in the paperwork to decertify, so the lockout's on everybody's minds. I've talked to a lot of players about this recently, and I always ask the same question — what is the message you want to get out to the people who love the game and are tired of hearing all the labor talk?
AP: We're business-minded, also. It's not just fun and games. A lot of football players, whether it's Sunday or Monday night — we're out there on the field, competing, hitting each other. But people don't see everything else behind it. It's a job for us, too — every day of the week. We're in different states, sometimes thousands of miles away from our families and kids, and a lot of people don't look at it like that. All some people see is, 'Oh, we're not going to be around football.' But how the players look at it … the players are getting robbed. They are. The owners are making so much money off of us to begin with. I don't know that I want to quote myself on that…
SC: It's nothing that I haven't heard from other players, believe me.
AP: It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money … the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money. I understand that; these are business-minded people. Of course this is what they are going to want to do. I understand that; it's how they got to where they are now. But as players, we have to stand our ground and say, 'Hey — without us, there's no football.' There are so many different perspectives from different players, and obviously we're not all on the same page — I don't know. I don't really see this going to where we'll be without football for a long time; there's too much money lost for the owners. Eventually, I feel that we'll get something done.
But this crazy idea about an 18-game season … I'm sure they want more entertainment and more revenue, but we're not going to see a pinch of that (the increased revenue), and it's just the business we're in.
SC: It seems to most of the players that if the owners had nothing to hide financially, and if the current business model was as unsustainable as they claim, they'd have no trouble opening the books and showing audited profit and loss per team. Is that your impression?
AP: Exactly! It's like … 'Well, show us.' We want more information, and they want to bull****, going around, saying this and that, just open it up and give us the information we want. If they have nothing to hide, just give us the information. Why not? Obviously, there's a lot to hide -- these guys are professionals, and they're maximizing what they do. But they know that if all this information comes out, the information the players want, it'll be right out there for everyone to see. It's a ripoff — not just for the players, but for the people who work at the concession stands and at the stadiums. The people working at the facilities, you know?
SC: Do you feel that you're represented well by DeMaurice Smith and George Atallah and what now used to be the Players' Union?
AP: Yeah, I think so — they're doing a good job. And with the veteran guys on board, and the player reps, they give us a lot of confidence.
SC: Obviously, last season was a disappointment for the Vikings — your team went 6-10 while the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears played for the NFC championship, and the Packers won the Super Bowl. How do the Vikings get back to the top of the NFC North? And how should you get that new quarterback now that Brett Favre is gone?
AP: We need to make some adjustments. Obviously … I mean, Favre hasn't retired yet! (laughs) You never know! The quarterback situation is up in the air, and some adjustments need to be made there. We need to go out and do a good job of recruiting in free agency (whenever there is free agency) — bring some new guys in, patch up some areas, and I feel that with Coach [Leslie] Frazier and the changes he's made, they're all for the better, and they'll help our team in the ways we're hoping for. It's all about having 53 guys that come together, and can get it done with the same goals, and will make sacrificed to accomplish those goals.
I see so many teams … the Patriots are a perfect example. Tom Brady's the guy everyone knows about, but it's about all the other players — the role-players who, one way or another, will get it done somehow. It's not all about talent, and we were a perfect example of that. Brett Favre at quarterback, me at running back, the offensive line, Sidney Rice … Percy Harvin is one of the best athletes I've ever seen. Our defense is always ranked in the top five … that shows you that talent doesn't always get it done. So, the changes Coach Frazier has made, new offensive and defensive coordinators, I feel like the mindset those guys bring to the table will be the key we need to get back to that level.
Peterson is one of the best players in the game, and he's staying busy as the labor issues get hashed out — he recently teamed with Power Balance performance wear and Converge to shoot a "Double Take" video in which he interviewed himself and dealt with delicate subjects like McDonald's restrooms, fantasy football, and power handshakes.