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Former NLF player Ed Reed attends Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022, in Inglewood, California. | Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty

NFL Hall of Famer and newly announced head football coach for Bethune Cookman University, Ed Reed, gave some strong comments when asked about the life-threatening injury to Bills’ Safety Damar Hamlin.

According to HBCU Premier Sports, Reed was on the campus of Bethune Cookman negotiating his deal to become the school’s next head football coach for the university when he was asked a question regarding Hamlin and the NFL.

Reed responded by saying that players “get treated like shit,” should have guarantees in their contracts as well as insurance, and seemingly compared the NFL to the “fields” where slaves worked on plantations.

“I’ve been saying they need to put guarantees in the contracts because you can die playing this sport,” said Reed. “Our sport been the worst sport … knowing that our contracts still not guaranteed and we still get treated like shit.”


Notably, Hamlin sustained his injury while he was still on his rookie contract, which is not guaranteed. That means there is no sure bet that the league will pay Hamlin if he is unable to ever play again. In 2022, Hamlin was set to earn a base salary of $825,000, but his injury now means his future paychecks from the NFL may be coming to an end. 

According to CBS, there are very few negotiable items with rookie contracts. 

The salary components of a deal are restricted to signing bonuses, base salary, roster bonuses, reporting bonuses, workout bonuses and select incentives.

In order to get a pension from the NFL, former players must have at least three credited seasons in the league, Hamlin only has two.

The legendary safety also seemingly suggested the NFL treats its players like slaves.

“It’s the truth, people know,” Reed continued. “You know our league is ran [sic] by owners. We know that. We know it’s not a players-led league. We know the truth. Everybody know [sic] the truth and the truth is who runs it and why it’s ran [sic] that way … it’s still the fields. It’s still an extension of the fields.”

Reed is seemingly referring to the fields in which enslaved Black people worked tirelessly to contribute billions upon billions of dollars to the United States economy during slavery in this country. It’s not the first time critics have likened professional sports leagues like the NFL to modern-day plantations for Black athletes with golden shackles.

Despite Reed’s words about the NFL — and a lingering injury from his time as a pro — he said he had “no regrets” about playing in the league because he felt like it was one of his only ways out of struggle.

“Crazy part is that in all honestly, I’d do it again. I have no regrets,” Reed said. “Why? Because the way the world is set up that was one of my ways out as a young African American man and it still is and I’d do it again. But I need to have it in the contracts that you could die and your insurance and all that is covered.”

Hamlin’s injury has continued to advance the discussions about what the game of football and the business of football should look like.

Reed and other former players will likely continue to voice their opinions in an effort to create an environment that is more beneficial to the Black players that will be competing in this dangerous sport for years to come.


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