Extra: Domonique Foxworth Full Interview


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I'm Steven dubner in this is a freakonomics radio. Extra. Our full interview with Dominic Foxworth who appeared in bits and pieces in our hidden inside of sports series. I've known Foxworth for a while. Now, he's one of the most thoughtful athletes I've ever encountered. But this conversation surpassed, my Artie, high expectations not just for his thoughtfulness, but his willingness to wrestle with contradiction and his hardcore candor as you'll hear in this episode Foxworth wasn't NFL player for several years then served as president of the NFL players union. And after getting an MBA from Harvard was the CEO of the NBA players. It turns out he didn't like that job too much. You'll hear why as our conversation begins Foxworth is talking about his belief that the professional sports players unions should be dissolved. I asked why. Yeah, I think that where we are. With with professional athletes, and how big a business it's gotten in how well they are compensated. I think is is a product of sacrifices made by players coming up and many players loss long seasons were black bought out of the league and and had their careers really torn apart by the their ambitions of free agency and pensions and all those things and they never really got to fully reap the benefits from that. And I think back in those days, the the unions the player unions were a lot like when we think of as traditional labor unions. But I think we've gotten to a point now where it's not like that. And with the the length of a player's career and how much money they could stand to make in a season. It's really not in their best interests like mathematically logically. If you go through the numbers, it's not in their best interest to actually withstand a lockout or to initiate a. Strike. They will not make that money back. Like, it's just physically impossible. The reason why they would do it is to. Further the cause I guess for players and a future. But since you can't kind of hand your position down to your son or daughter, then it really doesn't seem to make sense. So for me, I can use me as an example. I sacrifice from the time. I was I don't know. Probably in high school is when I started to forgo other opportunities or other decisions to focus more on football than I'm in college. And I wanted to be a computer a, computer graphics and computer science and high school, and then in college I wanted to be a computer science major at university of Maryland, and Mike and Mike advisor was like though that that costlo is going to make it very difficult for you to make a top practices their labs, and blah, blah, blah, blah. So I was like no not gonna do that during the summers when there's so in. So instead, you did was it American standard American studies, which I end journalism, right and journalism, which is shows how easy what I do is that you could do it and another major while playing ball. But anyway, go ahead. I I enjoyed those. And it was it was good. But it wasn't what I wanted to do. And then the summers when when people were getting internships, or whatever I was. Working out and getting ready for football. And I say all that to say once I got to the league, then I got drafted and I was in the third round. So that's it's money. It's good money. But it's not life changing money. It doesn't. And I it doesn't make up for all the things that you've given up through the course of your life. And then I come up on free agency. And that's when I got a pretty nice deal. I can't. Yeah. I can't imagine. If somebody was like, no, you gotta sit out right now. And then when you think about it, it's it's competition, obviously because you are competing in this lockout or or strike with the owners. Whereas it does make sense for them to withstand a lockout because they own their teams into perpetuity. So if they if they win a lockout for a tenth of percentage point or even a whole percentage point of revenue split that is something that will maybe three million dollars a franchise for this season. And it'll go up as things grow, and it goes on and on and on. So if you are in the kind of. Old fashioned mindset of labor strikes is the only way to get anything. You are players in all sports us officially mismatched. It's interesting to hear you say, though, that that would be the reason to maybe not have players unions because you know, a lock out or strike. I guess lot walkout is what the owners do a strike is what the players can do a strike, even the strike threat is rarely is pretty rare like once every whatever five to ten years, depending on when a given unions collective bargaining agreement is up, right? So so you I know you were playing football in the NFL when the lockout happened that was like two thousand eleven or twelve must've been somewhere in there. Right. And I know that the NFL players association was basically telling you guys put away as much money as you can. And maybe you might want to switch to, you know, regular gas or unleaded all this stuff. Just talk about that experience. I was heavily involved. And then. Goshi -ation. So I remember that. And I remember trying to get all the players ready. But the fact that the matter is the players are severely outmatched. If you're going to try to match up with money with owners, like we're not going to be able to outlast how long they can go without making money as far as influence on the media. They have that also. And so the the kind of kind of trying to fight them in that traditional way, you're destined for failure would seem so the point of decertification is as long as we have a union we have to agree over collective bargaining once you dissolve the union than you expose the league to any trust law, which frankly the NFL existed for several years, very lucrative Lee for the players without a union and the league was exposed to any trust law. It that's what precipitated a free agency and football. And the only reason why the NFL players association was reconstituted was because the NFL made it a stipulation of the settlement like you must reform union to allow us. To operate as a legal cartel slash monopoly. And so that's the only reason why we exist, frankly. And I was the president of the union. I was the c o of the NBA players union for a time. And I recognize the union provides a great deal of value. But I think frankly that protection is more value to the leagues and it's to the player. So like in the whatever job anyone hasn't your job? They can't institute a salary cap. Like, they they can't do a draft and say like, hey, all the doctors that graduate this year. We're going to draft you too and tell you where you go like you have some say in those things because they are forced to abide by the regular laws that everyone else abide by so regular labor laws provisions. Wow. So how would you have the scenario? Look, I mean the release different. But obviously the college football is weird unpaid high risk. I mean, that's a whole other financial ecosystem. Why don't we just start with talking about how NCW football works as a feeder system for the NFL? And what that does four or to the athletes. I think we're at a point now where most people kind of understand that college sports is professional sports. And and and and select cases, so obviously, the vast majority of college sports are not professional sports, but the two kind of big money sports and the power five conferences, they generate a substantial amount of revenue and that revenue goes to lots of people who are not the labor. So it goes through supporting other sports. It goes to building bigger and better facilities that goes to paying college presidents, and coaches and funding the NC double A like it goes a lot of different places. But it doesn't go to to the people who are the labor on the field and. I think another thing that complicates that. It would be. It would be a problem. If that was the end of the story in every player, then went on to have NFL careers, it'll be unfair. But whatever like, it's you're not gonna lose any sleep for those guys. But the vast majority of the guys and I have several teammates who because it is not considered work. They're not privy to workers compensation. They're not privy to extend it healthcare. So I've a few teammates who tornado yells separated shoulders torn lay rooms and hips in shoulders, lots of injuries that one of my best friends in college things a few years ago. His doctor told him that he was going to have to have both of his knees replaced by the time. He was fifty. And he didn't play professional sports. He had three knee surgeries while in college. And there's nothing that any college football team or or governing body is going to do for him in that case. I that to me is is tragic that a lot of people benefited from that and again he had aspirations to play professional football. So while he was in college. He made all the decisions that people who have those aspirations do or you don't necessarily go after the major that you're most interested in or the major that's gonna lead to a career. You have two major that's going to allow you to focus on on. What's most important, which is sports, unfortunately? And I know many people would say that maybe that shouldn't be so important, but it's hard when that carrots out there, it's hard to convince somebody to to try to balance and try to do both things. Well, when it's like, no, I need to do as well as I can at this because this is like a life changing opportunity, like not just your life. But. Generational shifting opportunity. And you have a chance I didn't. And someone's going to tell you know, how about you don't go do that summer work out. That's going to get you closer to how about you take an internship or something or how about you do take that tougher major. You're gonna miss a few practices. The coaches may not start you. And it'll stunt your development like that just doesn't make sense. So the old fashioned argument for why this was okay, why it was acceptable. Was that? Well, you know, this is like what communists call a tournament model. Right. Whenever you got a lot of people competing for the top of the pyramid. Whether it's show business or sports, or whatever, you know, the bottom of the pyramid. There's lots and lots and lots and lots of people they're willing to do whatever it takes for practically no money. It's kind of weird unpaid apprenticeship, and I guess some people accept that as okay, others don't. But I think what strikes me that's especially noteworthy about sports is the degree and man. A to sacrifice physical and otherwise is larger I would argue than trying to become an actor trying to become a writer try and whatnot. So can you just talk about that component of it a little bit more? And what you think would be a better solution. I think bringing up the tournament model is is interesting because I could understand how some people would look at that and say that it fits here. And that's why this is fair. But I think as a country we've decided that that wasn't fair a long time ago. I that's not their plenty of jobs where that's true like just about every job was like. The barista at Starbucks like there are plenty of people out there who are capable of being baristas, and you could probably allow Starbucks to to pit them against each other negotiate down down down down down. But that's not the case, we've instituted minimum wages in instituted lots of other laws to protect American people or American workers from these type of capitalistic urges Runamuck. And the the thing that's frustrating to me is we've instituted roles in professional sports that happened to take place on college campuses, we instituted roles that are to the advantages of institutions, but we are not interested in instituting any rules that are that are things that we accept as just kind of. Faxon fair there you'll you'll be hard pressed to find anyone in our society. That's like, Nope less. Eliminate the minimum wage in an allow this this tournament model to to run them up for for low wage workers. Right. Well, the other argument though, in colleges is again, this may be a purely specious argument from your perspective may be partially species. But the other argument is wait a minute free education for years of college. What's that worth? So there's two major issues that jump out for me from the education. The players are brought to the school because of their athletic prowess. There are many players who I've been around. And I know that we're not prepared to benefit. So what they're receiving is steps ten eleven and twelve when what they're building on is steps one two and three if that makes any sense. So that education, frankly is worthless to them they're then they're trying to get eligible and then. There's the other like people who show up who are prepared like me, and like other people that then make all these decisions because you're not you're not even getting the same education as the people around you because you have to travel on Thursdays, and Fridays, and you are not allowed to do certain majors because they conflict with your schedule and three times a week during the winter session or the the spring session, you have to go to five AM workouts. And and that changes your academic experience. I it's they're all these things that are mandatory because you're scholarship is year to year, and you don't have any power to negotiate with your coach and say things like I I wanna take this. So I'm not gonna be able to go there. That's just not a thing that that is available. So the the education that they're receiving is not the education that people think it is. Right. And so this is a gigantic question. And it's a it's a it's such a big industry already that there. Obviously, no, easy quick solution that would satisfy even close to everybody, but what kind of solution or solutions? Do you think are most viable that? Would let's say keep big time college sports intact in a way that the market would need them to be intact. Other words, there's massive audiences out there that really like it, but all those dollars as you've noted don't flow to the people actually produce a labor. So what would be a way to Aquilla -brate that a little bit or make more people less unhappy, at least their thing that frustrates me about that conversation is always you're always asked to to add something to change a rule to fix it. Whereas I feel like we should blow it up altogether and follow frankly, the model that this country is followed up until now is that you you strive for a free market. And then you institute roles to make it fairer. So I think that's where we should go. Like, let's. Not try to add a rule or or provide a stipend for players know, let the let the schools go after these players the same way anyone else would go after any other employees. And then if we notice that their issues along the way, then we can add rules to to fix those. I think trying to inch our way back is not the way to to get to the fairest possible system, if you were going to blow up the system, would you even connect that kind of pre professional sports league, the meaning college would you even connect that to universities at all? It was at an accident of history. That is the root of the problem, essentially. I mean, I think it's definitely an accident of history. Like, I I know you and your son are our big soccer footie fans. Then call it soccer. That's that's that's not the that's not the model that they follow. It's not. I mean, this is a purely American model this college athletics being feeder system to professional athletics. And it's probably not probably it is more unnatural. I would think then then these other systems. So I understand that it is the way that I countries developed, and I I mean, I understand the law of being connected to a college that you went to college grew up around. And I'm not saying that you do that you have to dissolve that all all together you can allow them to. I mean, many of the obviously, they are nonprofit organizations, but they understand how to exist in a four profit environment. Like, they do go after different professors, and and they negotiate over those terms like this is something that they are accustomed to they negotiate with coaches like they don't have to go that far with their coaches, and assistant coaches, they understand how the free market works. So JIMBO Fisher is a good example of of it. He was the coach at Florida state. He brought him a national championship and then Texas A and M offered him a better situation, and he up and left and then Florida state win got Willie Taggart from Oregon like this is not. While they want to pretend it is completely pure system. Like, they know how this works in every other year, Alabama has to pay Nick Sabin a little bit more to to keep him at the top of the list. Like, this is not something that that is brand new to them. I don't see why it's any different from from going into kids living room, and and saying, well, we want you to come here. We can offer you x y and z, but it just I think it makes people feel uncomfortable. But there's nothing wrong with it. So it's interesting correct me if I'm wrong, I'm probably am. But it seems like there's a weird paradox. Here you're calling for the decertification of the blowing up of professional sports players unions because you feel like they don't really work well in the work in the interest of the athletes who need to kind of make their make their money now careers being so short, but it sounds like college athletes have zero collective representation and that union for them might actually deuce. I'm good or do you think that's not a solution? No. I think they've tried and failed remote Houma at one point was leading that effort and it hasn't worked. But I do think that that them having a seat at the table with some leverage would be helpful because anytime you have. And this is what's happened for in college force for a long time. Now is you have a bunch of people in a room kind of setting up the parameters of of the game. But there's one group there's only one group that's not allowed in that room. And of course, that like it's just human nature that group is going to be the group that is perpetually slighted. So I think that college athletes are in a different space than professional athletes. So having a union if the college athletes could organize to the point where they would just stop showing up to two games, and that's an impossible thing to ask them. Because again, it goes back to this like this is my one chance, but if they were able to at least threaten that I think that's. How they could get some significant change. So given the history and the dollars and the emotions that are attached to college sports overall, how likely do you see any kind of substantial evolutionary change even in the next ten or twenty years? I mean, it's. It's clear that the pinion public is shifting towards wanting athletes to be fairly compensated. But I don't know that they're gonna stop watching. So I don't know where the pressure come from. Honestly, I think we're already at a majority of society, I think it's different across age and and racial demographics. But there will come appoint, particularly as some young people get older, we're all adults believe an except that college athletes should be paid. But this ties in to the union conversation. What is going to force them to act in the same way that a lock out or strike is not necessarily going to force owners to act in the same way that I think anti-trusts or any trust exposure would force the MAC, I think this is true here too is like I do think if the players if collegiate athletes just. Stop showing up to two big time games and tournaments that would force them to act, but I don't see them doing it because they only are only four years of eligibility, which means they only have four years to to show professional teams that they're that. They're good enough to play. So it's kind of again, not in their interest to do that. The only other thing is if the if the public stop watching because of it, and I don't necessarily see that happening. So I'm not sure how we get to this point. I think the other thing that's tricky is that the guys with the least incentive to change it or the ones for whom the system works, which is to say the stars in the system. Right. If you're if you really think that that being a college athlete whether in basketball for one year football for three or four years that you are gonna have federal career. You don't want to rock the boat because you're there now. So I don't see how they would have an incentive to even pretend to want to change the you. I mean, I think these you Lincoln these two are is very important because pretty accurate. Isn't in their best interest? Those guys who are on the doorsteps of having professional careers is not really in their best interest to to to stop this now. And I think you also bring into account the people who are benefiting most from it who are not on the field. Like, there's really no benefit to the coaches who because coaches salaries are inflated because they have extra money because they are not sending it to the players and the rest of the the teams who are funded by money generated by football and basketball. There's no incentive there. There's just athletes who don't have much power. It is interesting that in the NFL coach might make a quarter or maybe even a tenth of what is top star players making right? But in college, you make infinitely more because you know, they're all getting zero. If I were to think of someone who could try to get in there and nab. Gate diplomatically and also bus skulls. And who knows what they're talking about. I think you're the guy actually because first of all you've been a professional football player. You're also president of the players union the NFL. But then you're the only person I know of at all correct me if I'm wrong, the only person, I know who's ever been associated with the NFL and the NBA is the chief operating officer the NBA players union. Correct. So you've got the two major college sports, you've got those credentials, right? You also happen to have an MBA from Harvard. Yes. That's the thing. That's the thing. So am I wrong to think that you sometimes do think about being the person to try to go downstream from pro sports and into college and say, hey, if you actually want to treat people properly the place to do it is here, and yes, we do need to blow up the system. I don't. Honestly, maybe that's like yelling about unfairness from the sidelines and not necessarily getting involved. Maybe that's the wrong way to go about it. But I don't know. I think it's a I agree with you. It's not complicated. But I do think it's complex, and I think that can be kind of intimidating and. I don't know the way, and I you you brought a business school one of the things we in the entrepreneurship classes that I took their talk a lot about how little people know about what their business is going to become and how many times it pivots in changes. And how not knowing what you're going to do is. Okay. As like, you kind of bet on on the person more. So than the idea, you bet at the personal figure it out like I don't have any clue honestly where to start with this. And I think that's more intimidating. I would feel like I feel. Pretty close to like eighty five percent confident about the idea that unions should decertify professional sports because I fully understand that I've been through this. And I know that if they operate as trade associations, they can still provide a lot of the services to players that players give from the union, and it doesn't really hurt them. The scary part is maybe you no longer have a league minimum for players. And that creates the tournament thing that you're talking about. I understand the ins and outs. I understand that in a way that I don't understand the landscape of of college sports. And yeah. Yeah. I guess I just look at it as a thought experiment, if you could take someone that doesn't know anything about sports at all and say, hey, what if we have the system where workers are going to perform a set of tasks, you know, and let's say fifty hours a week for four years at this place, and then they're going to perform essentially, the same set of tasks in a different place. And in each case, you know, eighty thousand people come and watch him and millions more watch them on TV. But in one case, they get paid. Let's say an average salary of whatever to three million dollars a year and the other they get paid zero. And they're the same people. How in what universe? Does that make any sense? That's you know, that's kind of the thought experiment that I think would lead to a reassessment that you know. That's the thing is like. Another thing that I've come to learn in professional life, as that logic is useless and some patients, so like the the thought experiment that you just took me through as a wonderful one that proves the example, but people don't act based on thought experience, they act in in reaction to incentives in pressure and those sorts of things. So I think some a couple of things that we talked about, and I think creating a 'nother place creating real competition because the fact that they are a monopoly now. Meaning that they can that's the only place you can go that exists in part because of the unions, both professional football and basketball so basketball forces the players to be one year removed from from high school before they can interleague which forced to them to then find an alternative, maybe they can go overseas. But if they want to stay in America, they have to play college basketball football is three years removed, and there is no real viable professional football. Leagues. Elsewhere. So you kinda have to go to college. I think what the NBA is doing now with the D league. And they've started something called a junior NBA is I think they're kind of building that infrastructure whether intentionally or not surly building an infrastructure to create a kademi system that is an alternative to college athletics. And I know they've discussed the idea and there probably are going to remove the one and done rule in the next CVA. And I think that some players will start going straight into these NBA academies or into these delete teams rather than going to college, and that might change the system in football. I don't think they that. There is much hope to change that anytime soon, I guess, maybe if basketball changes then football has to change will what's to stop me, let Sam an entrepreneur. And I say, you know, the NFL players association, which is a sworn enemy of the NFL in many cases in many instances. But they're also colluding with them to basically, get free labor for three or four years from all. These athletes what stopped me from saying. Well, why don't I work up an alternative, and I will create some kind of league that is pre professional that would satisfy the the the NFL draft rules. I guess on the other hand they can change those rules. It will and put me out of business on day one. I guess right. Right. I mean, I think they could. But I don't think they would. I think the the major problem is network effects. You need to have a critical mass of the best players for for the other best players to come because the guys need to hone their skills, and they need their skills to be matched up against other players. So that you can know so I think maybe for basketball, it's it might be a little different because it seems to be that often they pick out those guys early on. And they and they turn out to be really good. But with football if you get the top fifty players top fifty incoming freshmen to go build a league with you. Which I think is would be really hard to do. But if you do that that's still not even close to enough you need them. And it's again basketball everyone kind of plays the same position. Everyone blocks shoots jumps plays defense football. It's like oh. So we gotta get it just seems like a really hard thing to do to build a real alternative. Right. Well, let me ask you this. So the alternative to this like the purely cutthroat capitalist version is like the academy model that soccer clubs around the world practice. Right. And and they're you've often got kids very young kids, sometimes really eight nine ten, but usually, you know, eleven twelve early teens going into academies, and basically becoming sort of unpaid professionals, although not fully unpaid. And so like that is an alternative, but a if you don't make it into the professional level, which the vast majority numbers being what they are won't. Then you have a weird. You've been removed from mainstream education and whatnot for a long time. But also like I look at the flip side, you as an athlete, and as a student like you may think it would have been better for you to have had the choice between professional sports and a career that was not sports. But on the other hand, you went to college and played sports. They kind of went together. And then even though you say the system is not optimal for anyone. And certainly not for you. You graduated from Maryland you played in the NFL yet union position than in the NBA as well. And then you got a Harvard MBA. So I could look at that and say man, I'm really glad that Dominic Foxworth was not sent to a football academy at age thirteen to become semi-professional. So now, maybe you're just an outlier, but who knows? So I mean, Jay z sold drugs Rupp in MARCY projects to. Single mother. Now, he is a multi multimillionaire, married to beyond say, the most amazing talent we have in today. So why don't we set it up? So that all young men must sell drugs when their kids and have only their mother and grow up in MARCY projects in Brooklyn, New York. Like, he had a great talent. And to be honest, like there's probably a a great deal of lock like in he'll speak to that. And that he happened to not be there when his friends got arrested, and his friend and snitch on them like that is like a lot of luck. And that to me, and I think the same thing is true for me. I and go through the course of my life, and look at all the things that happen that we're just happenstance that led me to these positions. And I'm not going to say that it's a model that should be that should be followed. It just understand that there are occasional allies. But trying to. Build around that seems crazy. Let me ask you a very narrow specific question. But I'm just curious what you can tell me. Because again, you're one of the few people. I know may be the only person there is who's who's been in both the NFL players association had a position in that union and position the NBA players union. So the chew sports, even though we lump them together a lot pro football pro basketball from a labor perspective, they're pretty different, right? So there's fifty three on a team in the NFL just twelve in the NBA. But then additionally, you know, there's visibility. We see the NBA player we see their faces NFL, we usually don't and also the salary average salaries much much higher in the NBA in part because there's so many fewer players for the money to go around with all those differences between two sports that we kind of tend to lump in together, what are the differences in either what the union tries to accomplish for those labor forces or any any other related differences. Yeah. I think that the power dynamics are obviously very different between the players and the union and the players in the league. And also consequently the union and the league LeBron James he is more powerful than anybody. And the league any owner any team anybody in the union any player like he has more power and influence over that league than anybody else. There's no one like that in NFL. So that is is a as as are all things it is a gift INA curse. There's a silver lining in a cloud. That comes with having such a contract concentration of power and influence in any one person. So I think that changes the dynamics I Don, I think fundamentally the things that the players want and the that the union want to accomplish they're not very different. Honestly, they're pretty similar and what you want accomplish. But how you go about doing? It is very different. So obviously, I wouldn't speak about anything directly that I experienced while I was at either place, but this is one thing that I noticed that. While working at the NBA players association was Commissioner and LeBron James our Commissioner in and Kevin Durant. Like, they are more peers than than anybody else, and they have a relationship, and they have conversations that's not something you have to concern yourself with and frankly, when we were in negotiations that was it was nice to be able to to actually be that liaison when I was with NFL players association like the Commissioner and the owners, they did not know how the players felt or what the players thought and less. They got it from us do tribute that difference, then to the leverage that players have in part because just basketball is different from football or attribute that to some kind of either history or philosophy or economic leverage. The NFL owners have that is really different from NBA owners. I mean, I think those all play a part in it. But I think fundamentally it comes down to value. And I while I think you brought up that their future players in the NBA. And that's part of the reason why the players get paid more. Yeah. That's true. But I mean, LeBron James is more valuable to any single team as talent or even as a marketing vehicle than anybody in the in the NFL. So I think that that matters you can go back through history. And like what Michael Jordan was able to create was a model and players. He built on players before him where the best basketball player is something that matters. And the the best football player is doesn't matter in that way. And I'm I'm not sure that I would also say that the person who's being most taken advantage of honestly. And all of this is probably LeBron James, how do you? You mean the existence of of the max salary in basketball? And again, we talk about these relationships, and we often just talk about groups as if they're monolith. Like all NBA owners feel like this all commissioners and people in the league office for like this all players for like this all unions. It's not true. So I think the rise of the MAC salary was in part because. The NBA owners wanted to. And this was max our he came before my time. But NBA owners wanted to be able to control the salaries because that's who was driving. The salaries up is the best players. Best players drivers salaries up. So owners want to be able to control that in the middle class of players wanted to make more money. So those guys interests were aligned in that case, let's Kaplan, Ron Jane. Well, let's cap this guy because that will that will take more money out of the system and put allow owners put more in their pockets, but in a cap system, if you have a floor that also force them to give more of it to to US Middle guys who aren't really so what ends up happening is a lot of those guys get more than they frankly are worth and LeBron James and people like him get a lot less than they deserve this happened in the NFL too. Didn't it rate with the different value attached to draft picks? Right. Was that year and the CBA right? So all the sudden. On the top draft. Pick was probably worth about like a lot thirty or forty percent less than the same person had been here before. Yeah. I would quibble slightly with the word worth in and say it was paid. Yeah. Because the worth in how much they paid are two different things. But if you had a true, and the NBA, obviously has the NFL has a salary cap and the NBA has luxury taxes and a cap, which kinda creates a defacto cap and major league baseball while it is uncapped. They still have instituted a number of rules that last time I checked the the lowest percentage of league revenue goes to baseball players while they have these enormous contracts. If you put together all the money that's going to players. They are lowest of all the three major sports. So let me ask you this. Let's say someone listening to you says themselves, you know, I like sports I played. Little bit nice school, whatever. And like, I think it's an amazing endeavor. Right. It kind of satisfy scratches some issues that nothing else can. But I also like fairness and treating people with respect, and and also paying them what they're worth how do I reconcile that as as a fan of professional sports, and college sports, you're saying, there's all kinds of reasons to be frustrated if not more than that. I mean, frankly, you don't you don't you don't have to. It's a interesting kind of irony in that sports is a place that we consider it very, very controlled environment. And it says close to America Crecy as we have. And it is kind of we feel like it is fairness like whoever wins on a game on the field is the better team there, you weren't necessarily an and it's not obviously, it's not true in life. Like, the people who win in life are disproportionately people who are from wealthy parents, and who had certain connections like that's but you look at the field, and we convince ourselves that once you step out there. It's all fair. And it feels that way that doesn't extend to to the business of sports and people who are interested in the business of sports. I certainly encourage them to learn more and to get involved in this. But the business of sports is much more business than it is sports. So I understand. That there are lots of people who don't care about this and are interested in is. And I am not asking him to kale or be interested. I just hope that they don't get in with limited information. Like, I I love going to movies, but I don't necessarily want to get into the weeds of all the issues that happen in production. Right. So talk for a minute about you as an athlete as a kid. And I'm curious to know, what the transition was like when it went from something that you love to do for whatever reasons you love to do it. Whether it was pure fun or competition or being good, whatever to the transition to when you realized it was something that was going to be a profession in a career. And how getting into the business of sport changed your view of it? As I was eight when I was like, I decided I wanted to be a professional football player. Actually, I was younger. I remember because we live. My dad was in military. So we lived a couple different places. And I remember being an apartment we lived in Indianapolis, and I told my father I wanted to be a professional football player. And he told me I I don't know if you believe me or not, but I suspect that he didn't. But he told me. All right. Well, you set a goal you should do something to get you closer to that goal every day, and I took that to heart. So I did a bunch of push ups and sit ups that night until I was throwing up it's like ridiculous. And then my my father assumed tried to teach me about moderation the next day like taking take some smaller steps. I was in love with the game in part because of how violent it was. Honestly, like, whatever warped sense of masculinity. I had at that age that probably has not fully left me was like basketball is for the soft kids football is for the men and I wanna play football. And I think from two to get back to the original question that you as I don't remember not thinking that I was going to go. It's weird. Like, I was young enough. Then to be naive enough to think, obviously, I'm gonna play an NFL. And as I got as to realize not everyone plays NFL. I also was one of the few kids who colleges wanted to talk to and so. I think around high school when I worked from the time when I was old enough to to old to go like summer camp. I started to to work and that was only two summers before. Colleges started inviting mates football camps. I would go to those football camps and realize like oh shit. This is an audition. Like, this isn't this isn't camp, Susan football. I was I think I was thirteen when I went to art monks like full head football camp. And I didn't get an invitation. I just wanted to go, and I still have the report card that they gave me that said that I maybe could play division two college football. And then the next deal enough that I was. Heartbroken and define at the same time. But yeah, everybody has these those types of stories, but what position were you playing at the time was playing running back and safety which probably part of the problem because they did they separate us by age that point and not by weight, and so I was very small and too small to be a running back. But anyway, so after that year, then at fourteen I was old enough to work. So I worked the next two or the. Yeah, I think I worked for. My years might have been twelve at Art Monk, and then thirteen fourteen I worked anyway, what kind of work? Did you do though summers? I worked at a camp for disabled like a sleep away camp for disabled children and adults called camp greentop the first year, which was a hell of an eye opening experience where you have to feed bathe change diapers of adults chase them when they run off and whatever. So that's that's a whole nother ball of wax. But then the next year I worked at dragon house express, the Chinese food restaurant in the mall food court. And then the next year I got started getting invited to football camps. And and that's when it kind of became it started to become a business when I showed up, and it was like, oh, they're like evaluating me. Like, this is I this is how I can get a scholarship or cannot get a scholarship like this is where the dream either continues to go forward or or dies and how. That realization affect your performance. I'm I I worked out. So I guess it helped. I mean, we're you were you intimidated a little bit. Or were you more than that? Oh now, I get it. Now. This is my business and I'm gonna win. Yeah. I think. I do my best to be honest and not paint this picture of like, I feel like it's easy for me to say, no, then turned in another can't actually be true for a fifteen year old kid who knows that his whole life is like riding on how well he does that Duke football camp or whatever. So. I'm sure I felt some anxiety some nervousness, but I pushed it down. I guess and I did well enough to to to get their attention. But it also felt like it felt like the pressure that I wanted, you know. Yeah, I wanted to be a professional football player. I wanted for my my plate a matter. And obviously it felt like it mattered in. My little pop Warner games. Whatever I'd cry when we loss, but I knew that nobody cared in the world. But then those were real stakes and I was like, yeah. This is this is real were there other kids from those camps that you remember who also went on to play in the NFL. Probably the the one person. I remember I went to Penn State's football camp. And I remember Adam telephoto who was altered in me. He was the big guy on campus at the time. And he was there big recruit they really wanted him. And I remember like befriending him. He was a few years older than me befriended him and kind of looking up and looking up to like, oh, this is cool. Like this big time guy who's like on the cover of all these newspapers is like we're friends, and then he ended up going to Penn State and playing safety. I believe in was paralyzed, and yeah, that's a whole nother avenue. Yeah. Well, let's let's go down that avenue for a minute. You're relatively injury-free during high school and college, and when you would see other guys getting hurt or in extreme case like like Adam getting paralyzed what's your response to that? How do you react? I mean, I think it goes back to like, my warped ideas of masculinity as much as I've gotten older and tried to suppress them. I think at that point. It was still there. And I it probably not probably it still is in me at some point. Hopefully, I've stifled some of it now. But it was like, yeah, I play this game. And yeah. People get payroll. I've been on the field a couple of times people been paralyzed. I played in a preseason game in the NFL where a guy died in a locker room afterwards. I was on the field when Kevin avid was paralyzed. We have practice at Maryland where helicopter came to take a one player off the field. And the coach said move it down. And we kept doing the drills as a helicopter was taking one of our teammates who couldn't move to the hospital, you ended up being okay? But these are all things that that happened. And I I do kind of remember I think I was. Eleven years old pop Warner we're playing against this other team that had a really good running back. We were tackling the running back I hit him in his leg. And it was so many people own them. He hit the ground, and it popped and he screamed, and we all got up and the bone was sticking the risking and it was broken, obviously. And we all went to the sideline like we're broken up, and we're crying and stuff and it took a while to get him off the field and the coach we gotta finish the game. And I like that always stands out in my mind is like a turning point or like, this is what you're into. And this is what you're going to be confronted with and that point fourth. I don't think I was aware of those things. But it never really bothered me. If anything it was like a badge of honor. Like, yeah. Notice crazy stuff happens, and I go out there and do it anyway, because I'm a man or something like that you go out there and do it and you. You don't get hurt doing it? Then then you did start to get injured as as a pro. Can you talk about your first significant injury there? Yeah. I mean, it was tough. I think from a professional standpoint more than anything. I was fortunate that it didn't happen a year sooner or or two years sooner. Will this is tied to the to the money. Right. This is. Yeah. Definitely tied to the money. Yes. So let's walk people through this. Because a lot of people don't understand how money works in the NFL. You were drafted believe two thousand five third round. Right. So what I'm looking at here, you were paid for that you're including a signing bonus. Which was a lot of about six hundred sixty thousand dollars that sound about right for your one shore. Okay. And then I guess back then it was a three year rookie contract. Is that right? Yeah. It was at three year rookie contract with the fourth year option. I believe. Gotcha. Okay. So it looks like your first three years paid you total of about. About one and a half million dollars. So for you know, most places in the world. That's amazing. Those first years were in Denver. Yeah. So I went through the first three years, and then I was coming up on the contract year. And I played pretty well in Denver. And I knew that I needed to play well in this year because if you don't then the salary minimum goes up for guys after that point. So then they just go get a younger one, and you and you go on with the rest of your life. So on during week one. We're getting ready for the first week of the season in Denver. They traded me to Atlanta Atlanta was a terrible football team. At that point. It was a year after Vick was gone. And they just drafted a rookie quarterback who no one thought was going to be very good. That was the first time when I consider going to business school my girlfriend at the time who was my wife now. I remember talking to her. Then like, yeah. This looks like it's gonna work out here. I'm gonna have to think about business school because I traded on week one. You normally earn your position during training camp. I skipped training camp. This team's gonna be terrible. I'm not gonna play and then I'll be out of the league. But that you got paid a little over nine hundred thousand dollars. But you must had a pretty good gear. Because the next year use signed a contract with Baltimore that paid you in year one eight million dollars year to nine point two three four point four. Is that sound about right? Yep. Like it was a four year twenty seven I think and I'm in in Baltimore. And and then I the first year I I struggled at the beginning of the season. But I was playing really well towards the end of the season and Baltimore City. I grew up in. So it was kind of cool. And and and then we we have like Super Bowl aspirations and I'm playing well coming into the next season, and tore my CEO and the first day of training camp. And I was never the same. So that was it was kind of the it felt like my career like with all the uncertainty, and the frankly fair that I felt going into year four and Atlanta like I was the most confident that I've ever been. And I was like, oh, this is perfect. I'm I'm a Baltimore guy back in Baltimore playing well Super Bowl contender. We're gonna win the Super Bowl. I'm going to have a great season. I'm gonna go to the Pro Bowl like this. I'm planning as well as I ever have people are starting to recognize that I'm good and everything is like starting to fall into place. And then the ACL pumps. I mean, frankly, that's would lead me to take on more leadership and the players association, and let me to be involved in the negotiations were STAN is what I used frankly was the big piece that got me into business school because I didn't have the grades or the background to get into business school. But no one has experienced like that who's going to business. So that's what frankly got me into Harvard Business School. So I get it's still turned out to be a good story. But at the time it was. I don't know. I don't I would not say that it was a depression by any stretch. But I do remember my wife, and I think she was still my girlfriend then telling me like go get a haircut because like I was just sitting around the house going to rehab twice a day and coming home and sitting in front of the TV like just no shaving. No, nothing. What got you out of that? I think it's the opportunity to do to be involved in the CB stuff. It's like it gave me a purpose. Like, I'm I think lucky you're near DC did that matter. Yeah, absolutely matter that absolutely helped and lucky that I'd already have relationships there, and I was involved, and I was already in a leadership role. But I was given so much more time because of it. So that four year contract you signed with Baltimore in two thousand nine it was a four year twenty seven point two million dollar contract. How much of that? Did you actually collect all of you did how how did? Have it guaranteed? Even though you didn't end up playing out the whole contract your, yes. So I was on the team for three years. So I got those three years and then the fourth year, I got I'd taken out insurance policies. So I got the rest of it there. So I mean, that's why I said earlier I was fortunate that that the knee injury happened after a signed that deal because it would have happened when I was in college or happen to your earlier, I would have been on entirely different path, which may have turned out to be great. But I really like where I'm at now. Let me ask you this. Generally, how did the reality as an NFL player match your expectations your kid who has you told us from the age of eight or earlier with seeing yourself playing in the NFL? And then you get there. Now, it really really really is business. I'm curious to know about that my freshman year in college. I started towards the end of the season we play. Well, we won a C championship. We went to the orange ball and loss and then immediately after my head coach guide a ten million dollar extension. And that was when I was like, oh, we aren't a team we're business. And that was when the light went on for me. I don't know that I would wish it any different. But that's the thing that sucks. The most is that when you feel like you're a part of a team, and you still have that camaraderie and love for your teammates. But also in the back of your mind, you are also thinking like, hey, I'm all for myself. I remember when I'm. In denver. I had a really good rookie season. And then my second year was was okay. Then I was kind of scheduled to be the starter. Opposite champ Bailey. The other corner the next season, and they went and traded for Dray Bligh. And I love dre. He and I became good friends. But it was not lost on me that trails messing with my money in opportunity. And that's like that sucks. It's not fun to be in that situation. It's not fun to feel that in. And so I I didn't consider that. Because I used to watch every Saturday and Sunday morning. They would do these NFL yearbooks on ESPN. And they would run them like back to back to back, and I would get up and watch them all the time. And those do such a great job of telling the story of football. And I believed it. Which is not to say that. It's not true. But it is incomplete is part of that story. Like when the new kid comes to camp. Or somebody's traded that everybody tries to help them fit in even though there's competition for the job is that part of the store you're saying, that's definitely part of the story. And it's it's not untrue because we do help each other. We do care about each other. And we are fraternity look out for each other. But we're also aware that it's a business, and there's only a certain amount of money and the salary cap, and you and you recognize all right. If this doesn't work out, what am I gonna do if it didn't work out in Atlanta? And I was out of the league after that year out of in twenty six year old with no real experience. Like, I mean being a football player does not qualify. You to do anything short of being a bouncer? I guess. And I know real experience, and I'm so far move from college that it's like, what am I going to do? And I I have a Bank account that is much larger than most of other twenty six year olds. But still I got a whole lot of life left to live. And it's a it's not a great situation to be in. It's not like awful, obviously. But you do feel that pressure. You're thinking about that. And you're thinking about if you have kids at the time if you have family members that are depending on you, you're like, oh, well as much as I love this guy it's much. I want him to do. Well, like like, I need this. And what was Ashley your then girlfriend now wife, what was she was her position now because I know actually little bit. And I know that she's not one to like let things happen as as they're gonna right? She's like have a plan make it work. What was her advice to you? I mean, I I don't think she gave me much vice at the time she was in law school at the time and she's much smarter. Than me. She's like, I know a lot of people say that because it seems like the like nice thing to say. But like it's no offense. I'll say it's pretty obviously true. She's actually. We went to we met at Maryland. And she went to to the law school at Harvard. Well, before I went to the business school up there. But she. I was more stressed than she was. I think about it. Yeah. Because you think in the back of her mind, she's thinking, it's okay? Because I'm going to I'm going to be a lawyer, and I can carry him. If I need to do you think that was part of it? I don't think. So honestly, like, I don't as she tells it now is like she knew that I was going to be successful. And that was one of the things that was attractive, you mean beyond football or info. No, just in general like, I don't think I don't think she knew that. I was going to be successful at football. I don't think she knew what I would do professionally. But the way that she tells that she knew that I would be successful. So that was why she was not concerned. But I didn't know that. Now does that say more about her about you? In other words, does the same more about her like the kind of man, I'm gonna pick. I'm not gonna pick someone who's not going to be successful. Do you think it was more? You've been hanging out with because that's kind of the story that she tells. Yeah, I think that. I think she those are things that she thinks that I think she found most attractive on me. It's like I was mature and focused and like in the idea that I think an example of it is I was already looking at business schools because I had already I was obviously going to be all in on this season. I'm gonna make the season work. But I know that there's a possible there. It's not gonna work, and I'm not gonna wake up tomorrow. And be like, oh now what? Yeah. Yeah. What about did you ever think about politics? I've been told that a lot, and I guess I've given it some thought no more than a couple of hours, and I hate it. Okay. Because terrible. Because it seems like you, well, the the money and politics is one thing, you're constantly fundraising. You're not actually getting to affect any change. And I guess it depends on what level of politics, you're going to or whatever. But it often feels like a kind of trophy head and to be a good politician. You're kind of always looking for the next angle the next office or the next person who's going to give you some money. Like, I don't know that that does not interest me at all. Coming up after a quick break. Dominique Foxworth on his first big job after football. I was getting up at like six thirty to ride the subway to work with a bunch of other people who weren't happy about where they were going to work and player safety in the future football. I don't see why my son needs to play. And if you haven't heard it yet, check out our entire hidden side of sports series on any podcast app or on freakonomics dot com. We'll be right back. Freakonomics radio is sponsored by anatomy of next new world podcast from founders fund explore every aspect of building a second branch of human civilization, thirty million miles away on Mars from nothing, but rust and rock, how do we build an atmosphere on Mars, how do we build an ocean? How do we grow forests and fields and make the red planet? Green then from politics and education to money are in sex in space, what does human life look lake on an alien world dive deeper into these questions and more by subscribing to anatomy of next on apple podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you're listening right now. Book MAC, let's return now to our lately. Edited full interview with Dominic Foxworth recorded for our hidden side of sports series. So you're like a little ways into your athletic afterlife. Now, you're about thirty five years old is that right? Yup. So you've been out of football for several years now, where do you feel you are in your athletic afterlife for you still kind of at the beginning. And I'm curious to know what you see how you see it playing out. So I was president of the players association NFL while I was playing and after business school, I went to the NBA players association. And I I am in a weird state. Frankly, I I don't know how to it feels like a state of transition, which, but it feels like I shouldn't be in a state of transition if that makes any sense. So like, my my whole life since I was a kid was like very very clear goal and. Have worked towards that goal. And a made lots of decisions that would get me closer to that goal. But give me further away from other important and interesting things, including friends including family, and and then I was like all right. I'm done playing. So I will be in the state of transition business school was like all right? This is my transition state, then I'll take this job at the NBA players association. And then I'll be back to like a steady state, but I didn't like it and I left because why the NBA position. Yeah. Out. I was the chief operating officer there. And I mean, there was a lot of things going on at the time a lot of transition there. But being chief operating officer was something that sounded good and paid well, and I was very proud of. But it's a lot of operating frankly, which is like I remember living in New York and my wife was pregnant with our third child, and which she was not feeling good. And I was getting up at like six thirty to ride the. The subway to to work with a bunch of other people who weren't happy about where they were going to work. And and I'd be there to like seven at night, like working working working working. And and I remember being on the subway thinking like my happy. I have enough money that I don't have to be unhappy. Like all these people who on here with me. They have to go to work, and I don't have to go to work. So then I quit. And I started writing for fun, and that's what landing me at ESPN. But to be completely Frank with you like, there's some focus and clarity that scarcity kind of brings to your life. And I don't say this because I want to go back to a state when I was not sure financially like I like being in a comfortable financial state. But there's something to be said for the focus and clarity of ONA. I gotta do this because I got to feed my family. And when you don't have that, focus and clarity. There's something a bit frightening honestly about always feeling like. Wishing I be doing with this gift, frankly that I that I have this gift of of flexibility independence, and sometimes in the job that I have now like I I went to business school in part because I fancy myself as a smart person who's more than an athlete, and I wanted to get away from this like there's parts of me. That's like embarrassed that I like right about sports and talk about sports. But then there's parts of me. That's like, this is awesome. I kind of flexible, I get to do fun things. I get to be pick up my kids from school and take them to school. And so it just depends on the day where sometimes I'm like, I should be chasing like some big professional glory. And I'm wasting time or some days like I'm doing just exactly what I should be doing or like, well, I should be spending more time with my kids and my wife because I have this flexibility. So. When you have that scarcity to folks your thought there, it's very clear what you should be doing. And I think that that's a it's an it's an interesting thing to happen to somebody at this age, it feels like more of a midlife thing and for athletes. It's a unique thing successful athletes is unique thing that in your twenties thirties, you're like. Now what? No, everything you said just makes sense to me. But I'm also curious if there's one more element that plays into that. Which is sports is maybe singularly thrilling to do. And I say, maybe, you know, if you play music at a high level, I mean, it's probably silly to say that sports are the only one, but because of the nature of what it is in the competition. I it's thrilling I mean because thrilled people are to watch it, and you guys are the ones who are doing it. And I just wonder if part of what's, you know, contributing to your sort of Malays is just the the possibility that thrill is irreplaceable. I mean, I think that's a. Of reasonable thing to think, but it doesn't feel like that to me. Like, I don't feel like I'm missing that thrill. It's not something that I feel like I want. I think the the the feeling of of uncertainty as the feeling that I have more than anything. It's not that. Like, oh, my life is boring. It's like am. I doing the right thing am I doing the best thing. I can with this fortunate situation that I'm in. And I think like it's a where it is connected to sports in some way. I would also like exacerbates it. I think is a feeling of loneliness, honestly, which and it's not like a three kids, and my wife, and I'm not like alone, obviously, a loved them and have fun with them. But throughout my life. I have been almost myopically focused on a goal which being focused on that goal. Oh, like gave me purpose. And I'm sure I'm going to butcher the Nici quote. But it's something to the effect of when a man has a why he can bear almost any how and like I don't drink. Now, never drank in my life. I never smoke weed like I was singularly focused on doing everything every decision. I made was like all right. I'm gonna get closer to go. And I I my the people I was close with in high school like those aren't my friends anymore people as close with in college like not really my friends anymore. And then at thirty five I'm in DC where my wife has a bunch of family and friends friends that she's been close with since they were in the second grade. And like, and I'm like, I don't really have that. And like I was making these choices which I thought were choices to get me. What you wanted? Right. And and I was in other words choices dollar making that I was. Unaware that I was making. But I didn't realize at the time that I was for going like lasting long lasting relationships. I think lots of athletes do Dobbs it and bring their friends and family along with them. And then they are making a decision. There are a whole 'nother home Messer problems that you get from that. So there is no right way to do it. And I I'm very happy with where I'm in my life, and while you're professional athletes, you walk around with this skepticism, frankly of all new people in your life. So even if there were like, the potential of some great friendships like I wasn't open to them. I go to these places people. Oh, you're a football player. Then I pretend and be nice to them because that's what you do. And they pretend or whatever it'd be into me because that's what you do. And then you move on. And and then you're thirty five and you're like, hey, yeah. I haven't talked to your best friend from high school in ten years or or something like that. So I I mean, I think that. Certainly don't like feel sad or anything. But these things that I am becoming more aware of now. And I think I said to my wife a couple of days ago that I feel like I'm in a perpetual state of transition, which is interesting and uncomfortable at the same time. What are some of the the other things you've tried? You mentioned the NBA players association job. What are some other things that you tried that you thought would make you excited or happy and didn't? Though, it's not that they didn't is that they that. They don't you know. So like like, I mentioned it's it's no matter, and I'm starting to kind of understand that. And this goes back to the scarcity point where if there is something there to make the decision for you. It's it feels somewhat easier. But. I magic at that. Everyone can relate to this that when you're at work. Sometimes you're like man, I really wish I was with my kids. I really wish I was partying or when you are with your family. You're like man, particularly if you like your job, you kinda wanna be at work or you might want to go on a guys trip or you might wanna go on a romantic vacation with your wife like there's so many things that you want to do. And, but there are things for so many people that they have to do, you know? So when I'm in this position or it's like, all right? I wanna do this. And then I'm doing it. I'm like, I kinda wanna do some of that. Then in like, it even breaks down into professional where it's like, all right. I want to like just chase professional glory. I wanna be like work my way up to the top of some company, and like I think I'm capable of doing that. Like, I feel like I have intelligence, or charisma and. And pedigree academically to get in those positions. But that requires you to like, not be home a lot. And like, I there's part of me that wants that. But then there's part of me. And I was like I want my kids to look back and say, hey, my dad picked me up from school couple of days a week. I don't know. So this ambivalence. You never had any of this though when you were chasing the NFL dream. Did you know, it's this is brand is brand new like it was quite clear to me that there were two things I need to get paid. And we need to win and anything that was not in line with that. All right. It's obviously, I don't need to do this. And I think maybe I was more extreme version of it. Then a lot of people like to the point that like, I don't drink and stuff. Like, I I don't have some religious thing against drinking. I just never have it as an I didn't when I was in high school when probably a lot of people start because I was like, no it's gonna make me a worse football player. One of my. Best friends in high school, actually, sold drugs and got a little bit of time for it. And when he was selling an occasional smoking. I was like, nah, I'm a football player. Like even our presidents over the years have experimented with marijuana. Like, it feels like for me and some even cocaine for me, it was like no there's one thing to do. And now, I'm at this point where it's like, I don't really know how to have fun. I don't really have like super close friends, and I don't really know what to do with my life. But I'm pretty happy still. So it sounds to me at least that you built an identity that was you know, focused really strongly focused on on sport on football. But there are a million parts of what density means it means. You know, who you know, and what you do with them, and what you put in your body, and so on and that now you still have the identity, but you don't have the thing that you built it for. I mean, it's got to be a little baffling in a way. Like, you are the person you made an to succeed, and then you did succeed. And now, it's like, whoa. What next? I mean. I think most people's journeys are so much longer that when they do succeed. They like die a few years after something, you know. That's your problem. That's your problem here. Yeah. I mean, that's what's always attracted me about the idea of the afterlife of an athlete is. It's unnatural, you know, most people like they pursue something for. Their whole life or it's not. So specific that they basically are told to stop doing it when they're thirty five because I know they're too slow. Yeah. And yet like you can't like ask like, you got a lot of money in the Bank. You can't ask people to feel sorry for you on that front plainly. No, I'm surly. Like this to be clear. This conversation is not at all about me wanting sympathy or failing sorry, like no, no, I didn't. I didn't mean to imply you're know there, there's nobody that I want to trade places with. But I just I mean that doesn't mean that there aren't things that well, but you have a serious case a grass is greener. It feels that way right to the point that you made about the I am the person that I made one of my classes and business school one of the the there was surprising. I went to business school before after I finish playing. I went to business school because I was like all right now, I'm gonna keep competing I'll go to business school, and I'm going to turn this twenty seven into two hundred. And then I got there and surprisingly as I'm sure Harvard has a bad stereotype or by reputation for like creating money hungry like people with low ethics. I'm sure there are plenty of them coming out, but also prize with like how much mushy solve classes that we had was about our feelings, and integrity and all that stuff. And I do remember one professor said that wasn't to me directly. It was just to the class. But it felt like he was talking to me directly. And I didn't. Really liked this professor necessarily. So I hate to give him credit. But he said something to the fact of the operating system that you use to to get here may not be the operating system that you need going forward. And like that resonated with me because I feel like that's definitely true for me. But I don't know they don't just like release updates for human. So modify mop rating system is is is a slower more challenging process, right? What was the professor's name? I don't remember. I didn't like them. Because the first day he said to me like, obviously, I was the football player there. And that was part of my density his size me up. It was like aren't you kinda small for football player? We'll we'll your ass in this class. But he was actually a pretty good professor at all. Right. So let me ask you this. You are a scholar at least an amateur scholar of the civil rights movement. Or can you just talk for a second Abou the relationship between the civil rights movement per se and sports areas where there's overlap maybe we're one movement is way ahead or behind the other. And and I'm certainly, you know, got in the back of my mind, the anthem protests that our big piece of this conversation right now, I'm curious to know what you have to say about that. There's something like at least in America. There's something black about professional athleticism like the players are largely black and particularly in the big to sports a lot of the culture that seeps out of the game into our pop culture. Come from black players and. A lot of people who want to separate race from sports. And they say they want to kind of go back to how it was. And when race and sports were separate. But it never was like it was it. Always it always has been enter twined like races is. Probably the most particularly in America. It's like the most defining characteristic of our countries like how we have dealt with race in. It is always involved in everything. And obviously there were like the sixties, obviously, no one can say that racing. Sports weren't connected, but I think people point to like the periods after that from the seventies eighties to the nineties, and they would say that those were times when race and politics and social issues were not in sports. But I still think they were because the players were still dealing with it. Whether the media's putting attention on it, or whether people are willing to address it or talk about it like it was a thing. That was always there. So that frustrates me. So I Don I don't necessarily feel like while. I I do accept that. We're in a state now as a country where it is unavoidable. The intersection I don't feel like it ever went away. Like, it's not a new intersection. It's just we happen to be on that corner altogether. Other at once. It's funny. You say that because the thing that struck me most about when Colin Kaepernick, I decided to protests police violence by sitting in the kneeling during the anthem. The thing that struck me is it felt so mild compared to some past protest moves. I could you know, nineteen sixty eight Olympics. I mean that was a big deal. And then it also struck me the response also struck me as so over raw that again it felt like pre sixties in a way. Like didn't. We like haven't we done this and shouldn't the conversation be way ahead of this. But maybe that's because it is at the end of the day all about just race and not even racing sports racing politics at cetera. Do you think that's what it's really about? Then. Yeah. I mean, it's not about the. Issues. It's not about the posture. You take when you are when the national anthem is being played like it's something that I as a father of come to kind of recognize that adults aren't very different from from children. They just adults learn how to justify and how to kind of validate their actions and decisions. Whereas if Musonda something ridiculous. And I asked him why he looks at me. Like, I'm crazy like how you asked me why or more or he'll just say like I took some cookie and like why I wanted to cookie. Like, okay. Yeah. That's that's fair. And I think that people to certain degree, even if it is subconscious. They do what feels right are what makes them happy or what makes them feel good? And then they're like all right now, let me concocts this post hoc justification whether it's conscious or unconscious, and I think that's what's happening. And I mean, we see it with the with the anthem stuff. It's like all right sitting down during anthem as a problem nailing. Then then you move from there to nailing so nailing. Santa problem raised fist is a problem. And now we see that staying in the locker room is a problem. Let's just be honest about it like you don't like these people making any statement. And it makes you uncomfortable. You don't like it. So you're not gonna like it no matter how they get it across like, there's no. And that's the one of the things that's been most frustrating about this is they're like, no, I understand. But this is the wrong time or this is the wrong way. I know there is no right time. There's no right way. You should be more like Martin Luther King like Martin Luther King was assassinated and large majeur. Thirty of white society was not happy with him advocating for advanced rights. I I don't know it just feels like there's just no matter what there are people in it. It's it's a trap that. I think we often get caught in and not just in this case. But just in general, it's like all right? We're going to try to satisfy everybody we're going to try to satisfy this group like some people don't want to be satisfied. They wanna be angry. Let them be angry. If you were still playing in the NFL, and I say, yes season happens. What do you do during the anthem? I mean as I think at this point. I you probably stand up because there's not much. I mean, it's easier easy to say. Now, I don't know. So I'd like to say that I would be in solidarity with those guys, and I would have the courage to expose myself to the hate that they're receiving. But I mean. I don't I don't know. It's easy to say now from the sidelines. I'm just going to ask one last question if I can two part question number one you played professional and college in high school football. So you can't not think about long term brain damage since that's a big piece of all conversations about football these days. So I'm curious to know, whether you feel a little bit lake you're living with a time bomb in your head and related to that. I'm curious to know what happens if when your son wants to play football. So I'll take the second one. I so slightly easier is like I he's only five now. And I say, no, I mean, it's not a problem that we're actually facing this point. But I would say no, I mean, I so if he comes to you and says, hey, dead. I know, you know, before I was born you were amazing NFL player. Great careered cetera. Would he mean? No, what's what what are you? What are you talking about? I mean, I think the the research wasn't there? I suspect my parents would not have let me play when I was that age if there was information available in like, it's it's not even clear information. But what is clear is that it it does put you at higher risk like my son doesn't need those things like the best case scenario is that you play professional football. And you make a lot of money. I I wasn't. I was far from poor up like middle class. But like I went to Baltimore County public schools. I I was. I that's not my son's experience. I didn't have access to the things that he'll have access to. So like, I I frankly think that he is starting in a much better place than I am. So he should do much better than then banging his head into other people's head for money. Like, it just seems like a step back to me, honestly. And so kind of Unimak gross scale does that mean as football goes forward, and I guess if all goes forward, which obviously in the short term it will. But long term. It's a question. Does that mean that the only people that play it are going to be, you know, the people who need to play to try to make the money that they can't make otherwise it kind of feels like outside the quarterback position. And it's already gravitated to that like both prior to two now. But I mean, you guys, you know, the San Francisco forty Niners, for instance, they have a few guys have had a lot. There've been a lot in the league went to Stanford. So these are football players that go to Stanford the Stanford degree there's a lot of ways they can now make a living. So there's. More about the appeal of playing at that level than just making the money. Yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean football players athletes are still heroes in our society. And it's something that people particularly young boys will aspire to I understand that. But I do think that the danger is something that's going to push people away from it in a way that it drew people to it in the past. So I I mean, it's not football's not by any stretch dead. And there is still hope that they could find ways to modify the game or improving quick men or whatever and make it safer. But until they do like, I don't see why my son needs to play. But I don't judge anybody else. Yes. I'm can do what you want your son to do not for my son. And then what about you, do you worry about your brain? Does your wife worry about your brain? Absolutely. I mean, I do it's it's something that I think lots of players talk about and think about and every time there's like it could just be like general aging. You don't know what your keys are like it's like you're living. Horror movie, honestly, where it's like this thing lurking in the background that like you you hear noises, but you don't necessarily know if that's like just a regular nose or if that is a monster. And that's like what I- analogize it to or. It's like all right. I can't find my keys that to me feels like oh is this a signal or is this just something whatever. And so I mean, it's it's scary. And I think that what is most frightening is right now, I would do it all over because of what it's done for me and my family, and I think most players would agree with that except for the ones who killed themselves. Like, I have been said before obviously. But I don't know that darkness. Like, I I don't know I've never ever in my life like gave any realistic consideration to and in my own life and trying to. And I mean, I invite you or anybody else to like try to wrap your head around. How sad like depressed? How dark you must feel to see death as as relief as a way out. And I imagine if I were ever to feel that way or for people who do feel that way. They don't say like I would go back and do it all over again. I would imagine in that moment. They will give up all the fame all the money. All the success all the women or whatever else that all the trappings of this to not be in a place where you feel like the only exit is to end your life. So that's very dark and very difficult to deal with. But I I've never been there. I hope never to get there. But until then like, I feel like I'm happy with the decisions that I've made and I will continue to live as happy and productive life as I can well on that. No, let me just thank you for a really great conversation. And wish you and your family all the best. And I hope you find the greenest pasture pasta. And then find a greener one. That was Dominique Foxworth on Twitter. He's Foxworth twenty four. Hope you enjoyed this full conversation. He appears throughout our hidden inside of sports series, including episode numbers. Three forty nine three fifty one and three sixty five thanks again to him. And thanks to you. For listening for economics radio is produced by Stitcher and near productions are hidden inside of sports series was produced by Andres Kelco, and Derek John with lots of help from Harry Huggins, Alison Craig glow, Alvin we also it helped from Rebecca Douglas and Nellie Osborne, and our staff also includes Greg Rippin ANZAC Lipinski the music you hear throughout our episodes was composed by Louis garra or show can also be heard on NPR stations across the country. Check your local station for the schedule also on Sirius XM Spotify. Even your better airlines. Thanks for listening. Stitcher.

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