It’s important to read this quote from former Chicago Bears national scout Chris Prescott describing the team’s second-round draft pick, safety Jaquan Brisker, after the team selected him 48th overall on Friday. Read it. Then read it again.
“He’s a – what would we call it? – Ph.D? Poor, hungry and desperate. Football is his life,” Prescott told ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. “This is this kid’s life. There’s a lot to like about that when you see a guy who’s so passionate about football.”
Cronin wrote in a follow-up tweet that Prescott was discussing Brisker’s playing mentality.
“It’s how he communicates … you feel a tough, hard-nosed kid,” Prescott said, according to Cronin.
That didn’t really help Prescott’s case. It made it worse.
If Prescott talks about players like this publicly, imagine what he says when out of view.
Anyone who speaks and thinks this way shouldn’t be part of a 21st century NFL franchise. Expressing a sort of glee about a player being poor, hungry and desperate is quite the take. It’s a line you’d expect to hear from Marty and Wendy Byrde in “Ozark.”
Prescott made these remarks during the draft. Brandon Faber, vice president of communications for the Bears, told USA TODAY Sports on Monday that Prescott is no longer with the team. He said he could not provide information on whether Prescott was let go as part of the normal post-draft turnover process in the scouting department that is common with many teams, or whether Prescott’s dismissal was due to his comments.
But whatever the reasons, in a strange way, we should be grateful for Prescott. He pulled the curtain back and showed what some in the league truly think about players.
There’s still a significant swath of the league that sees players as cattle, or worse, as things. What I’m about to say isn’t specifically about Prescott. It’s more of a general statement. Parts of the NFL see players as things that may have some elements of humanity, but not quite; somewhere between a robot and a shell of a man.
The Black players are viewed as even less than that. There’s almost an exponential downgrading of their humanity.
We’ve seen numerous examples of this over the decades, including the NFL despicably using race in determining settlements for its concussion cases. Or how it banished Colin Kaepernick for protesting social injustices. Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin once said that players are treated like “zoo animals.”
“I don’t know how to put this, but to some people, the NFL is basically modern-day slavery,” Baldwin told Sports Illustrated in 2016. “Don’t get me wrong, we get paid a lot of money. There’s a sense of ‘shut up and play,’ that this is entertainment for other people. Then, when we go out in public, we’re like zoo animals. We’re not human beings. I can’t go to the grocery store and just buy groceries like a normal person. It becomes an issue, a burden and so . . . I haven’t checked my mail in awhile.”
Despite Roger Goodell bro-hugging draft picks as they took the stage, when the cameras are off, and Goodell is back in the office, the league’s algorithms still push an attitudinal harshness that should have died long ago.
It’s true that football is a dehumanizing sport. It breaks down the bones and likely destroys the mind. Players are paid well for what they do, but that doesn’t change those facts.
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The biggest problem with the NFL and college football is that both have for decades resisted efforts to treat players better. They’ve been aided by a media that cheered on the more obscene violence in the sport and shouted down players and people who tried to make it safer.
Talking about players the way Prescott did also shows a lack of respect for what it took for them to get here. If you look at Brisker’s story, you see more than someone who was just “poor.” His former high school coach said he is a good son and brother who loved football from a young age and was inspired by his older brothers, Shawn and Tale’, who were on the high school varsity team.
“He was always an athletic kid and a kid who wanted to be around football,” Terry Smith, his former coach at Gateway High School, told the Tribune-Review. “He would come to practice with his older brothers and just help out, just be around, be a sponge. You love football when you’re just hanging around it all day, every day.”
In 2015, Brisker’s brother, Tale’, was shot and killed in Texas.
“He had a tough upbringing,” Smith told the Tribune-Review. “But his family has always been there. He lived with a different family part of the time through his high school career, and it has helped shape him. It’s helped mold him.”
“He’s kind of a good chess piece, I guess you would say,” Prescott said. “A lot of moving parts. You can play him close to the line of scrimmage and he can come up and he can play the run. He can fit in there and then he can also revert and flip him back, because he’s got enough speed and range and good enough eyes to where you can go locate the ball and play the ball well on the back end.”
“Obviously, you know you’re getting more tight ends (in the box),” Prescott added. “You’re getting a guy who can probably go man-to-man with the tight ends if you want him to … it’s not like he’s going to get killed in the run game. So I think that’s important, that versatility to actually fit in the run game and then obviously give you the versatility to actually cover the tight end.”
All of that is normal football-speak.
For whatever reason, Prescott went from that to that. In one moment, the veil was lifted, and if you think Prescott is the only person who thinks that way, you’re wrong.