Vikings Adrian Peterson: NFL Is “Modern-Day Slavery”

If you believe Minnesota Vikings' Running Back Adrian Peterson, the NFL is a modern-day plantation and he's a slave.

The rhetoric surrounding the dispute between the NFL and the Player’s Association has already gotten pretty absurd, with the latest example being the comments earlier this week by Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson comparing the NFL to slavery:

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson compared NFL owners’ treatment of players to “modern-day slavery,” according to an online interview published Tuesday by Yahoo! Sports.

Yahoo’s Doug Farrar, who conducted the interview Friday with Peterson, removed that comment from the story later Tuesday, explaining on Twitter that he wants to give Peterson the chance to provide context.


Shortly before the players union decertified, Peterson spoke to Yahoo to promote a recent appearance on the online reality show “Double Take.” The NFL declared a lockout when the CBA expired.

“The players are getting robbed. They are,” Peterson told Yahoo. “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.”

When discussing other players feeling the same way, Peterson said: “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.’ “

For the record, Patterson’s current contract provides that he would make more than $10 million in 2011 in base salary alone, and this is part of a six-year, $40 million deal that he signed back in 2007.

This is slavery? I think not.

Patterson’s comment that “without  us, there’s no football” displays the same type of idiotic arrogance we saw from baseball players in the early 90s, and from NHL players in the early part of the 2000s, both of whom did more damage to their sports by going on strike than they helped themselves with whatever deal they got in the end.  Baseball didn’t recover from the 1994 strike until Cal Ripkin Jr’s pursuit of Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games record caught the attention of the nation. Hockey arguably still hasn’t recovered and remains the only major sport without a nationwide media contract. It isn’t so much that the fans like the owners, because they don’t, but they also have very little sympathy for multi-millionaires going on strike because they want a few million dollars. If a lockout means that they discover they don’t need a particular sport in their life, then getting them back might not be so easy.

No, Adrian Patterson, you aren’t a slave. You’re a talented and very well compensated athlete who’s trying to get more money. I don’t blame you, that’s capitalism after all, but don’t pretend that this is some kind of fight against injustice.

H/T:  The Right Sphere



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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. george says:

    Not often you have to compete against other extremely talented people for a position as a slave; I suspect that for $10 million a year there’d be a lot of us who’d be happy to be a slave under the conditions he’s enduring.

  2. Dave says:

    “Baseball didn’t recover from the 1994 strike until Cal Ripkin Jr’s pursuit of Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games record caught the attention of the nation.”

    So it took baseball a total of…4 months to recover? That doesn’t sound so bad.

  3. It pretty much took the entire 1995 season before attendance numbers started coming back to where they were before the strike, and that was largely thanks to Ripkin. Without him, I doubt the fans would’ve been quite so forgiving.

  4. Dave says:

    You’re right, without him they wouldn’t have nearly as forgiving. But we’re talking about a momentary blip on the baseball timeline; the strike ended in April and Ripken broke the record in September of the same year. If you want to give an example of a labor dispute doing lasting damage to a group of athletes four to five months of slightly depressed attendance over the summer of 95 isn’t going to cut it.

  5. reid says:

    A poor choice of words there.

    I’m sympathetic to the players, especially the ones who only play a few years or have physical disabilities for the rest of their lives. (See Earl Campbell for an example.) Yes, it’s their choice, but it’s a tough sport and not everyone is raking in tens of millions.

    Ideally, there would be less money being raked in by everyone, but that’s just me being an idealist. Would it be so wrong if ticket prices came down?

  6. Herb says:

    I’m a weird one. The unions in Wisconsin? I’m sympathetic. Sports unions? Not at all.

    I’m with Jerry Jones on this one.

    As for this, “Yes, it’s their choice, but it’s a tough sport and not everyone is raking in tens of millions.”

    It is a tough sport, true, but even the lowliest benchwarmer is making a very comfortable living. (The league minimum is 285K.) Give me a year of that, I’ll be set for life. Pay off the house, set up a nice little IRA, maybe start a business. Compared to Peterson’s multi-million dollar contract, 285K isn’t a lot.

    Compared to everyone else, it’s quite lucrative.

  7. reid says:

    Herb, I understand even the lowliest player is making a good salary, compared to most of us. Anyone who makes it to the NFL is lucky. But I still think given the injuries and relatively short careers, it’s not a gravy train. And if the owners are taking in boatloads of cash with little risk (I’ve heard they keep their books hidden so it’s hard to say), then it’s unfair to the players. As with most things in life, it’d be nice if it was fair to all parties; you and I aren’t really in the picture (though fans should be in general).

  8. Dustin says:

    Not really all that important, but I think the Sosa and McGwire chase of Roger Maris is generally accepted as the summer America started paying attention to baseball again after the strike.

  9. wr says:

    Herb — The NFL brings in a pot of money. After expenses, some goes to the owners, some to the players. Of the two groups, I know who I believe actually earns their share.

  10. reid says:

    wr: Yes, that’s what I was trying to say; thanks for doing so more succinctly!

  11. Franklin says:

    I knew Adrian Peterson was a pretty good football player. Didn’t know much about his character … until now.

  12. JKB says:

    Well, between the public sector unions and now the NFL players, the well paid union workers are having a tough time in 2011. And they both make far more money than those who are paying them. But at least with the NFL the fools are voluntarily parted with their money.

    You know, with what he’s making, he could pool with a few other elite players and start their own team, work for themselves, take all the profits for themselves.

    Here’s a time on how to determine if it is modern day slavery: When you say “I quit” do they let you leave and go work at Sears? (One caveat, if you sign a contract, you are obligated to satisfy that contract or pay the penalty for breach).

    And by the way, slavery is a societal status. Unless the government will hunt you down and return you to your owner, it isn’t slavery. You can have forced labor or indentured servitude, both of which are illegal under the US Code

  13. Herb says:

    “Of the two groups, I know who I believe actually earns their share.”

    The players are integral to the game, yes, but the owners –and all the non-player personnel that make up the NFL– are integral to the business. Both sides are equally deserving of their fair share.

    The question is what’s fair? The players currently get 60% after a shared $1 billion deduction. Sounds fair, but their job is to basically run around and get paid. There’s more to it than that, but essentially, that’s what they do.

    The owners actually have to make it work as a business. Adrian Petersen’s not involved with the lighting crew, or the grounds guys, the equipment people, the referees, security, lawyers, accountants, ticket takers, and hot dog sellers. Nope. He just plays the game.

    And yet, his group gets 60%. The only thing I can say about that is that it was good while it lasted.

  14. Trumwill says:

    The NFL players are pretty much the only players’ union that I side with. Their careers are usually nasty, brutish, and short. The thing is, though, that I am not nearly as sympathetic to Adrian Peterson, who is being very well compensated for his trouble. It’s the linemen protecting him and the defenders trying to tackle him that are often making much, much less. And I don’t particularly want to see the players earn more so much as I want more money to be devoted to injury-retirement pay.

    On the other hand, I think that Herb nails it. You can’t discount the money-men and organizers. Adrian Peterson contributes heavily to the Minnesota Vikings, but the Minnesota Vikings contribute heavily to Adrian Peterson as well. Not just money, but they give him an amazing platform with which to be great and win the adulation of the country. College football demonstrates how successful football can be with talent far, far inferior to the NFL. And while I am sure that without the NFL there would be a league for Peterson to play in, it might not grant him the kind of platform and salary he now has.

  15. Gerry says:

    His last name is “Peterson” not “Patterson.”

  16. Franklin says:

    The thing is, though, that I am not nearly as sympathetic to Adrian Peterson, who is being very well compensated for his trouble. It’s the linemen protecting him and the defenders trying to tackle him that are often making much, much less.

    This is an excellent point. The thing about healthcare and especially the repeated blows to the idea, yeah I’m sympathetic there.

    It’s still not slavery.

  17. Franklin says:

    Repeated blows to the head, I mean. Obviously I had no idea.

  18. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol, rich ungrateful bastard, save your money, then buy a team and then give all of your profits to your players or shut the…….. up, you play football in the NFL, are multi multi millionaire for playing football idiot!!!!


    His last name is “Peterson” not “Patterson.”

    the spell checker claims another victim..

  19. Well, the lockout would seem to have given him his freedom, especially the freedom to pursue a less slavish profession.

  20. wr says:

    “They only run around and play the game.”

    Uh-huh. Sure. Because all those people who pay outrageous ticket prices, all those people who sit through expensive commercials, they only do so because they want to admire the business acument of the owners and the skill of the lighting technicians.

    Without the players, there is no game Without the owners, there are no concession stands. Unless of course the players hired a manager to run the stadium.

  21. Bill Jempty says:


    The NHL has television deals with NBC and Versus and their games are broadcast across the country. OK Versus is a joke, but there is NBC. Well that’s a joke too. 90% of NBC’s broadcasts are games between Bos, NYR, Phil, Pitt, Det, Wash, and for now, Chi. There are about 15 NHL teams who have a better chance of having their team bus hit by lightning than their team appearing in a televised Sunday afternoon game.