News & Politics

Congressional Witness Calls NFL a 'Plantation'; Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a Former NFL Player, Objects

WASHINGTON: A congressional witness called the National Football League “a planation” and a GOP lawmaker who played in the NFL urged him to retract the characterization.

“I played for five seasons. I think that’s patently false, first of all, but let me ask you a question. Have you ever watched the NFL draft?” Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) asked Luke Visconti, founder and chairman of DiversityInc, during a recent House Financial Services hearing titled, “Diversity in the Boardroom: Examining Proposals to Increase the Diversity of America’s Boards.”

“No,” Visconti said.

Gonzalez described his experience at the draft and said families typically gather around the player lucky enough to be drafted and have a “joyous celebration.”

“It is literally a fulfillment of a lifetime of work and dedication. The average salary in the NFL is over $1 million,” Gonzalez said. “This gives people an opportunity to take care of their family and a community in a way that they’ve never imagined and I think words are really important and how we label things is really important and to call the NFL a plantation, which evokes the worst original sin of our past as a nation, I think, is false and I hope you’ll correct the record.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Minn.) used some of her time to allow Visconti to respond.

Visconti labeled the NFL a “defacto planation” in his prepared testimony and declined to retract his statement.

“What do you describe a system where almost 100 percent, except for one person, of owners are white and 70 percent of the players who earn those people their money are black? It’s called a planation and that’s what it is,” he said.

Gonzalez asked for 30 seconds to respond to Visconti but Tlaib said she was going to reclaim her time.

Later in the hearing, Gonzalez told Visconti there were seven minority coaches in the NFL from 1921 to 2003 but that number has jumped to 18 since 2003.

“Broadly, the NFL is like most of society, in my opinion, it’s imperfect, there’s a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of progress still to be made but to deny the opportunity that’s created for the families and athletes and call it a planation, again, I think words matter,” he said. “We can talk about this and talk about the progress we need to make and that would be a healthy productive dialogue, which I think has been the case for 99 percent of our time here in this hearing.”