Slavery in Soccer? I Don’t Think So

It’s amusing how the term “slavery” gets thrown around these days. In November of 2003, Rasheed Wallace compared the NBA’s Zero-Tolerance policy concerning arguing with referees to slavery. “That’s retarded,” the eloquent Wallace opined. “In my mind, it’s kind of like a slave and master or father and son. You’ve got your little son and you say don’t say nothing back to me — and to me, that’s totally wrong. It ain’t like that in any other sport.” I guess Sheed believes that children are slaves to their parents, too.

A month earlier, Warren Sapp was fined $50,000 for abusing NFL referees, and promptly compared himself to a slave, the NFL to a slave master, and called rival Lavar Arrington a house slave. “(Arrington) got what he wanted. He snitched, and the slave master came down,” explained Sapp. “Stop a man from doing what he’s been doing for nine years, and now there’s a rule against me? . . . It’s a slave system. Make no mistake about it. Slave master says you can’t do it, then don’t do it. They’ll make an example out of you.” How? By taking 7.5% of their $6.6 million salary, apparently. I didn’t know slaves could afford a $50 dollar fine, let alone a $50,000 fine.

Other professional athletes who seem to think that they’re still living on a plantation in the antebellum South include Dennis Rodman, Larry Johnson, and Tony Romo (at least according to Michael Irvin).

Oh, by the way. Rasheed Wallace made almost $17 million during the 2003-2004 season. Sapp, as mentioned, made $6.6 million. Dennis Rodman made millions in salary, endorsements, book sales, and bad movies like “Simon Sez.” Larry Johnson made about $73 million during his career in salary alone (I’m not sure what he made on those Grandmama ads, but I’m sure he cleaned up).

Now, we have Sepp Blatter throwing his hat into the ring. Apparently, Blatter fancies himself as a modern-day Abraham Lincoln or Moses. How else can you explain his latest nonsensical rant, this time weighing in on the Cristiano Ronaldo situation? He compares football to slavery and demands that Manchester United let his Ronaldo go.

“In football, there’s too much modern slavery, in transferring players or buying players here and there and putting them somewhere,” Blatter said. “The important thing is we should also protect the player. And if the player wants to play somewhere else, then a solution should be found. If he stays in a club where he does not feel comfortable to play, then it’s not good for the player and for the club. I’m always in favour to protect the player and if the player wants to leave, let him leave.”

Before Blatter decides to don the stove-pipe hat, grow a beard, and issue his version of the Emancipation Proclamation, I feel the need to shine a little light on this situation. After all, I was a history major in college and I even took a “History of Slavery” seminar during my junior year. I wrote a lengthy research paper about John Calhoun and how his arguments in support of slavery helped bring on the Civil War. As such, I feel like I’m pretty qualified to say what I’m about to say:

Cristiano Ronaldo is not a slave. Slaves don’t make millions of dollars in salary and endorsements. Slaves don’t hold their masters hostage while negotiating a move to another plantation. And slaves certainly don’t go romping on the beaches of Italy with ridiculously hot women like Nereida Gallardo in tow. Basically, if 90% of the world’s population would trade places with you in a heartbeat and think that it’s not fair how great you have it, then you are probably not a slave.

Sepp Blatter needs to stop putting his foot in his mouth and concentrate on doing his job. Maybe he should start showing up for FIFA events rather than worrying about how pampered multimillionaire footballers feel. Maybe he should be more concerned about whether South Africa will be ready to host the 2010 World Cup than interfering in a private matter between two domestic clubs. Maybe he should think about how his stance on free and unrestricted player movement conflicts with his prior statements about restricting the number of foreign players on club teams. If you’re going to make outlandish statements, you should at least be consistent.

If he really is concerned with slavery, then he should tour the Nike factory in China sometime. Leave the Ronaldo/Manchester United/Real Madrid triangle alone.

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