For years, I’ve been listening to theories, speculations and dogma about professional athletes being equivalent to modern-day slaves. However, it was never more apparent to me than in Super Bowl XLIX, with the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.
For most of his career, running back Marshawn Lynch has been sprinting like a runaway slave. He has been dubbed an animal— they call him “Beast Mode.” For years, mobs of tacklers have tried to capture him, many to no avail. He aggressively races toward the goal line as if the end zone is a land of long awaited freedom.
He started his NFL career in 2007 as a Buffalo Bill. His unique running style plowed through many fields for Bill’s owner Ralph Wilson. But he also had a dark side. In 2008, he pled guilty to a hit-and-run charge. Next, his rebellious nature influenced him to possess an illegal firearm off the field. Subsequently, he pled guilty to that crime, too. And soon thereafter, a cross-country human trade ensued.
Now he is branded a Seahawk. The owner is billionaire Paul Allen. Although the average career span of an NFL running back is between three and six years, Lynch just completed his ninth season. This in itself is worrisome. Coupled with the fact that this particular football field hand has been clouded with controversy, reservations trail him like the eyes of an overseer.
In 2012, he was arrested again, this time for a DUI. He was reported to have registered .10 on a breathalyzer in a county jail in Oakland, Calif. As for his behavior on the field, Lynch has been whipped with heavy fines for his refusal to talk to the media and grabbing his crotch after scoring touchdowns. In fact, of the mere three extended interviews of his career, only one was granted to a white man, Michael Silver.
Nevertheless, we’re at Super Bowl XLIX. “Beast Mode” is the starting running back for the Seattle Seahawks, the returning Super Bowl champs. He is the fourth leading rusher in the NFL with 1,306 yards and is tied for the most rushing touchdowns this season (13).
The score is 28-24, the Patriots leading. The Seahawks have the ball on the 1-yard line, with 25 seconds left in the game. It’s second down. They are have timeouts. Smart money says, “Secure the ball and let Beast Mode pound it in.”
However, at what cost? If the Blackest, rudest, media-shunning, crotch-grabbing, pistol- packing, drunk-driving, leading touchdown rusher breaks free and scores the winning touchdown, he becomes the MVP of the Super Bowl and the 2015 face of the NFL.
Let’s throw a pass and allow someone else to win the game, they decided. Unfortunately, it was the other team.
Saint Solomon is an author and essayist.