““You have these moments where sports intersects with politics, intersects with race, and you can have conversations with people who might not normally have those conversations.” Those are the words of San Francisco State professor Larry Solomon, quoted by Colorlines.com’s Jamilah King, who considers the NFLPA opposition to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Right To Work legislation a watershed occasion “in publicly bridging the gap that exists between the NFL’s multibillion dollar teams and its increasingly marginalized fan base”
On January 6, 2012, the NFLPA released a damning letter in opposition to the Indiana’s bill, which has since moved quickly through the state’s legislature.
“‘Right-to-work’ is a political ploy designed to destroy basic workers’ rights. It’s not about jobs or rights, and it’s the wrong priority for Indiana,” the statement read. “It is important to keep in mind the plight of the average Indiana worker and not let them get lost in the ceremony and spectacle” of the Super Bowl.
The statement was hugely important, considering what’s at stake for Indiana’s workers, particularly black ones. Black workers are disproportionately union members. They’re more likely than whites, Asians, and Latinos to be in public-unions, and make up 15 percent of total membership, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Historically, unions have been crucial gateways for black workers to earn higher wages and break into the middle class.
There are currently 22 states in the country that have the law, mostly in the South and in western states like Wyoming and Utah. Indiana’s bill, which the state Senate passed this week and Gov. Daniels has already vowed to sign into law, is unique because it will be the first the law that’s been put into action in an industrialized area with a large, unionized workforce.
“I don’t think it was surprising, but I think it’s important,” said Washington State University professor David Leonard about the NFLPA’s statement.