Actor & Ex-Player Terry Crews Details The Abusive Relationship The NFL Has With Its Players (Video)
The NFL and player protests have become more synonymous since Colin Kaepernick spearheaded the trend of kneeling throughout the National Anthem during the 2016 season. Many NFL owners and disgruntled fans have misconstrued player protests to be anti-patriotic as opposed to them making a statement against racial injustice in America.
Actor Terry Crews is beyond qualified to speak on this polarizing issue for two reasons: one, he’s an African-American male who spent seven seasons playing in the NFL and the now-defunct World Football League (aka NFL Europe) from 1991 through 1997; and two, he is a native of Flint, Michigan, a city with a mayor who has faced scrutiny for allegedly making comments reflecting the disenfranchisement of the city’s highly concentrated African-American population that has been marred by a contaminated water crisis for several years.
The muscle-bound Crews appeared on New York City’s Hot 97 radio show Ebro In The Morning to assess several hot-button topics regarding the NFL’s growing distance between its players while ensuring their business initiatives to remain the most profitable league in the world.
“I totally get that it’s about the soldiers who fought and bled and died. But what they gotta understand is that you’re talking about 70 percent of the NFL is African-American. This is about the slaves who worked and bled and died. I’m talking about something that can’t just be wiped under the table. Why? Because if a major crime that has been committed, if there’s been rape, if there’s been murder, or if there’s been pillage, you can’t come to even a grandson of that person that’s been murdered and say ‘Come on, man, get over it.’ How could you do that? How insensitive could you be?'”
When Ebro asks Crews if the NFL’s fear of its drop in ratings due to player protests could possibly lead to a resolution with its players, Crews responds by jarringly analogizing the league’s brass and its players to pimps and prostitutes.
“What you got to understand is what the NFL is. The NFL has an abusive relationship with its players. It’s an abusive relationship. It’s like a pimp and a prostitute. It’s really you never know if you’re really good. They could like (pretends to give a hard smack), you know. They give you a smack one day and the next day ‘You’re the best thing ever!’ These players are like, ‘Okay, am I good, or could I be out tomorrow?’ There’s no guaranteed contracts! You understand? So, the whole thing is people think that these players have a $100 million dollar-contract. But if they cut you on Game 1 out of 100, you get a million dollars. You got a $100 million dollar-deal for 100 games. But if they cut right after that, it stops there. The NBA doesn’t do that. NHL doesn’t do that. Major League Baseball doesn’t do that. It’s a whole different dynamic. It’s an abusive relationship, you know why? Because they know you’re going to get hurt. It’s built in, so it’s an abusive relationship from the start!”
Crews also explained how players are beguiled by the NFL, and have trouble looking for new career paths following their retirement or being cut from team rosters.
“My big thing is that I go back to tell players and give them a perspective. I’m like ‘Guys, guys, football is a very, very small part of your life.’ But what happens is you are tricked. That carrot is always dangled. The magic thing is they dangle this carrot, and you’re jumping for it and jumping for it because they tell you ‘It’s the biggest thing in the whole world!'”
To double down on his point that there are a lot more “thousand-aires” than millionaires in the NFL, Crews admitted that he went broke after he retired from the NFL, and found his biggest career success as an actor. He also discussed the fallacy that football players are conditioned to believe from the NCAA ranks, and used his own career in football as an example for younger players looking for a second act in their careers following their retirement.
“When I retired, I thought my life was over. Because I said, ‘Nobody is gonna hire me. This is all I wanted to do. I am done.’ Again, I was a special teamer, so I topped out at about $300,000 dollars. And that went very quickly, so I was broke, okay? (laughs) But the deal was that I had success afterwards as an actor. Literally, I go to South Africa and on Sunday morning I’m looking for NFL scores. I can’t find them! I go to Brazil, and I’m on Sunday morning, I can’t find NFL scores! I go to Hong Kong, I can’t find the NFL anywhere else in the world! I’m in Europe, I can’t find it. Dude, it’s a trick — no one else cares about the NFL, but you would think that the whole world cares. And they trick everyone into thinking…and it even starts at the NCAA level. When you’re talking about billions of dollars changing hands, and brothers are…they get these guys with bad relationships with their families, no dads, and now the NCAA is your father, okay? And you can’t get no money, can’t get paid, but you see that your coach has a $4 million dollar-shoe deal. You’re talking about massive exploitation of specifically African-Americans.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Crews discusses players dealing with developing CTE from concussions, and other paths to financial wealth for young Black men. As a former host of game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, actor in over 600 hours of television shows and 60-plus movies, furniture designer, and former arts major in college, Crews’ career path is a remarkable tale proving that football is not life — it’s just the beginning and never too late to pursue new dreams within it.