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NFL Owners Secretly Spying on Players

Black America web.com, News Analysis, Glenn Minnis Posted: Nov 13, 2008

What would George Orwell think?

If youre a young, gifted and black pro athlete, you better beware: Chances are Big Brother really is watching. That revelation comes courtesy of a recent Wall Street Journal expose that finds a litany of NFL owners, empowered by a nod from the league commissioner Roger Goodell, have commenced the covert practice of employing secret security details and dispatching them to designated clubs and signaled out provinces to essentially spy on their players.

During one recent road trip, the San Diego Chargers not only conducted player bed checks, but placed guards in the hotel lobbies to make sure players didn't stray far from the premises. And the Seattle Seahawks have gone as far as to declare entire entertainment districts off-limits to players, while other teams have begun installing video-surveillance equipment in locker rooms and even dictating what players can and can't discuss when speaking to the media.

Such underhanded deception and bouts of open dictatorship are legitimized under a sweeping new personal-conduct policy enacted in late 2007 that not only allows but invites such latitude. It all makes for a brave, if not always forthright, new world for NFL chieftains as their aggressively implemented new bylaws have positioned them a step outside the current reach of NBA and MLB execs in the game of putting forth the desired image for a rather select fan clientle. Yet, a far more critical assessment instantly begs the question of when does mere investment morph into overstretched ownership?

This is what's known as national progression, says John Carlos, who used the 1968 Summer Olympics stage to call attention to the plight of African-Americans across the globe by lifting his gloved fist in unison with Tommie Smith in a Black Power salute. For so long, the black athlete has been viewed as nothing more than a source of entertainment for the masses. It's to be expected that at some point the powers that be would come to the conclusion they're rightfully entitled to control every aspect of his life as they see fit.

Certainly, in most of these instances, the financial investment at hand can be of mind-boggling proportions, but even then should it come at the expense of one's sense of being or peace of mind? Furthermore, it's keen to remember here that for every Adam Pacman Jones or even Larry Johnson there is a Langston Walker to consider, a distinction that can be as sobering as all of the league's new found powers of espionage.

A University of California Berkley graduate with a degree in economics, Walker just also happens to play offensive linemen for the Buffalo Bills. But none of that helped him feel is as if he wasn't a card-carrying equal not vulnerable to being snared by the web of NFL McCarthyism during a recent night of good natured celebration.

When someone intentionally spilled a drink on him at a Los Angeles bar not long ago, Walker admits his overriding concern was whether a mole might be watching to see how he responded and possibly turn him in to the league's discipline czars.

"When you start not to trust your own organization or governing body, who can you trust?" he rhetorically asked a Journal reporter. And what of the instances when the powers that be strive to manipulate your every thought or even control what you speak?

Cleveland Browns star tight end Kellen Winslow came face-to-face with a variant of that very beast late last month when team officials instructed him not to
talk to the media about a staph infection that sidelined him for weeks (the bug had already previously felled several other players) because they felt it might weigh negatively on the organization, then quickly moved to suspend him without pay when he refused to play along.

"I think the player-conduct policy can be very subjective at times and might need some restructuring to clearly define what is and is not considered conduct detrimental, so it is not improperly imposed," said Winslow, who eventually was reinstated after much haggling.

Just the same, all of that leads us back to the question of when too much is too much. And where do the lines of checks-and-balances become irrevocably blurred?

In his provocative, critically-acclaimed 2005 book $40 Million Slaves, renowned sports columnist William Rhoden waxed of how the almighty "Benjamins" have become the sole significant prize of the day in the eyes of many rags-to-riches modern day inner-city athletes. But here an equally poignant thought: What does it really profit a man if, along the way, he somehow loses the total soul of his being all in obstinance of cashing in?

These guys deserve all that they get, adds Carlos. They just shouldn't be required to lose themselves in order to hold on to it. What you find is, at the end of the day, all the money and riches are in no way a measure of who you as a person, nor should it be a litmus test of what you're willing to sacrifice of yourself to keep it. Young brothers need to be mindful of that. As people, we all have layers and provided you're not doing anything immoral or unlawful, you shouldn't be forced to sacrifice any of that just to maintain what you've worked hard to deserve.

Related Articles:

Opponents Call FISA Changes Unconstitutional

Domestic Spying Under Scrutiny

Warning to Chinese Americans: FBI Still Obsessed With Chinese-American Spies

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