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A few days ago, FIFA President, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, made some ill-advised comments with regards to the transfer saga of Cristiano Ronaldo.
He likened the current football transfer market of buying and selling players to "modern day slavery." Ronaldo, who was embroiled in an already incendiary situation with Manchester United over his desire to leave and play for Real Madrid, agreed completely with the FIFA President.
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Since I have an interest in the life of Frederick Douglass, a great American abolitionist and human rights advocate of the 19th century, and a former slave himself, I thought that quotes from him might place this situation into its proper perspective. Let us remember that Senhor Ronaldo is one of the highest paid footballers on the planet. He earns in one year what most us can not even fathom; however, that is the marketplace acting in an efficient manner. He was not taken to Manchester United in chains from the island of Madeira.
At the age of 23, Senhor Ronaldo is financially secure for life due to football. Herr Blatter oversees the largest organizing body of international soccer. His ridiculous and insensitive statement, along with the self-serving reply by the player, require commentary from a source without reproach: Mr. Frederick Douglass. He was a child born into slavery on a Maryland plantation who learned to read and write on the wharves of Baltimore, and would later become a tremendous champion for human rights.
On Being Late for Work
“There were no beds given the slaves, unless one coarse blanket be considered such, and none but the men and women had these. This, however, is not considered a very great privation. They find less difficulty from the want of beds, than from the want of time to sleep; for when their day’s work in the field is done, the most of them having their washing, mending, and cooking to do, and having few or none of the ordinary facilities for doing either of these, very many of their sleeping hours are consumed in preparing for the field the coming day; and when this is done, old and young, male and female, married and single, drop down side by side, on one common bed,–the cold, damp floor,–each covering himself or herself with their miserable blankets; and here they sleep till they are summoned to the field by the driver’s horn. At the sound of this, all must rise, and be off to the field. There must be no halting; every one must be at his or her post; and woe betides them who hear not this morning summons to the field; for if they are not awakened by the sense of hearing, they are by the sense of feeling: no age nor sex finds any favor.
Mr. Severe, the overseer, used to stand by the door of the quarter, armed with a large hickory stick and heavy cowskin, ready to whip any one who was so unfortunate as not to hear, or, from any other cause, was prevented from being ready to start for the field at the sound of the horn."
Monthly Food and Yearly Clothing Allotments
“Here, too, the slaves of all the other farms received their monthly allowance of food, and their yearly clothing. The men and women slaves received, as their monthly allowance of food, eight pounds of pork, or its equivalent in fish, and one bushel of corn meal. Their yearly clothing consisted of two coarse linen shirts, one pair of linen trousers, like the shirts, one jacket, one pair of trousers for winter, made of coarse negro cloth, one pair of stockings, and one pair of shoes; the whole of which could not have cost more than seven dollars. The allowance of the slave children was given to their mothers, or the old women having the care of them.
The children unable to work in the field had neither shoes, stockings, jackets, nor trousers, given to them; their clothing consisted of two coarse linen shirts per year. When these failed them, they went naked until the next allowance-day. Children from seven to ten years old, of both sexes, almost naked, might be seen at all seasons of the year.”
"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Chapter II."
Actual Earnings as a Caulker in Baltimore, Maryland
“In the early part of the year 1838, I became quite restless. I could see no reason why I should, at the end of each week, pour the reward of my toil into the purse of my master. When I carried to him my weekly wages, he would, after counting the money, look me in the face with a robber-like fierceness, and ask, “Is this all?” He was satisfied with nothing less than the last cent.
He would, however, when I made him six dollars, sometimes give me six cents, to encourage me. It had the opposite effect. I regarded it as a sort of admission of my right to the whole. The fact that he gave me any part of my wages was proof, to my mind, that he believed me entitled to the whole of them. I always felt worse for having received any thing; for I feared that the giving me a few cents would ease his conscience, and make him feel himself to be a pretty honorable sort of robber.”
"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Chapter XI."
How would any of us feel if our take home pay were only 1% of our gross earnings? If he were alive today, what would Mr. Douglass say about the comments made by Sepp Blatter, or Ronaldo's posture in the situation?
"The soul that is within me no man can degrade."