The labor conflict between the NFL and its players is already contentious, but Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson took things to a new level with comments he made in a published interview.
Speaking to Yahoo! Sports moments after the NFL players union decertified Friday, Peterson compared the NFL's treatment of players to "modern-day slavery" and said the players are getting "robbed" by the owners.
Peterson, who is scheduled to make $10.72 million in base salary in 2011, made those statements when asked about the NFL lockout and legal fight between the two sides.
"It's modern-day slavery, you know?" Peterson said. "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."
Peterson was asked what message he would send to fans who are tired of the labor talk.
"We're business-minded, also," Peterson said. "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 ..."
A Vikings spokesman said the team would have no comment on Peterson's remarks. Team officials are prohibited from having any contact with players during the lockout.
Peterson's agent Ben Dogra said the running back was traveling to Africa as part of a Starkey Hearing Foundation mission and was unavailable for comment. Dogra gave a statement on his behalf.
"I think anybody that knows Adrian knows that Adrian is a very strong-willed and passionate individual," Dogra said. "The game means an awful lot to him. People should not just take his statements per se word by word. It's a difficult time. He would love to play. I'm sure that everybody would love to see football continue in the NFL and I'm sure at some point it will get resolved. But Adrian, that's what makes him great. He's soft-spoken but if he has something on his mind he'll speak it. But I think nobody should really look at those words and take them out of context."
At least one player -- Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant -- took exception to Peterson's comments. Grant wrote on his Twitter account: "I have to totally disagree with adrian Peterson's comparison to this situation being Modern day slavery.. false. ... Their is unfortunately actually still slavery existing in our world.. Literal modern day slavery.. That was a very misinformed statement ... But I understand what point he was trying to make.. I just feel like he should have been advised a little differently" [sic].
The league and players are at odds over how to divide $9 billion in annual revenues. The legal fight has shifted to the court system after the players decertified and filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. The players argued for financial transparency and asked owners to open their books throughout negotiations.
"It's like ... 'Well, show us,' " Peterson said in the Yahoo! interview. "... 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 rip-off -- 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?"