Ricky Williams, Terrell Owens, and Simeon Rice are just a few names of former NFL players who have announced plans to form a new player-friendly, political activism-promoting football league named the Freedom Football League.
"The purpose of this league is about community and the development of players," Williams told ESPN. The FFL, he explained, will be "partly owned by the players, partly owned by the fans, and partly owned by the operators."
"In thinking about creating this league, I wanted to create a league that I could have stayed in and been comfortable and really thrived," he said. "The NFL started a long time ago, and since then a lot of things have changed. And we want to create a league that's ready for that change and invite some more of it."
He added that the FFL currently has about one hundred stakeholders, with fifty former NFL players. Its season will run during the spring.
"And it's for the fans and it's by the players," he said. "It all started with a bunch of guys sitting around a table, talking about the good old days and realizing, 'You know? We have a lot of experience. We've been there before, we know how to do it, what if we started a league and really made it about developing young men?'"
Williams told "Outside The Lines" that "we're trying to develop young men" and will encourage their players to engage in political activism outside of playing the game.
"You can't take away their voice and expect them to develop," he said. "When I grew up watching football, I really wanted to be like Jim Brown, not because of what he did on a field, but because he could take that platform and have a voice. And so, when I got to the NFL expecting that to be the case, anytime a big social issue came up we were told: 'Be quiet... It's a distraction.' And so really [we're] changing the conversation."
According to The Bleacher Report, ten teams are planned for the start of the season: the San Diego Warriors, Oklahoma City Power, Portland Progress, Texas Revolution, Ohio Players, Florida Strong, Birmingham Kings, St. Louis Independence, Connecticut Underground and Oakland Panthers.
CBS Sports reports that former San Franciso 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia and former Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson are among the founders.
The FFL website echoes the founders' displeasure with how the NFL has been run in recent years.
The current NFL ownership, with a market capitalization of over $100 billion is closely held and controlled by 32 wealthy billionaire families and generates, on average, over $100 million of annual profits per team per year. This ownership schism creates an exploitative dynamic between ownership and the players and coaches, neglects the long-term health and well-being of the players, and gouges the fans with outrageous ticket prices. The FFL is rethinking all aspects of the game of football and it starts with the ownership and money.
This new league follows in the footsteps of the XFL, AFL, AAFL, and the LFL.