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Domonique Foxworth Tackles the NFLPA, Athletes' Rights, and Harvard Business School

foxworthDomonique Foxworth has certainly benefited from the business of football. The Oxford, England-born former NFL defensive back earned a degree and was a three-time All-ACC selection at the University of Maryland and was selected by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, going on to play seven years for Denver, Baltimore and Atlanta. Knee injuries forced him to retire, which has led him into another dual role: as a student at Harvard Business School and president of the NFL Players Association.

In addition, Foxworth has recently taken on the role of movie producer, helping bring the documentary “SCHOOLED: THE PRICE OF COLLEGE SPORTS” to EPIX on October 16. The film is a frank look at an issue that hits home for Foxworth: the way student-athletes are treated and the inequities in the current system of big-time college athletes.

We spoke to Foxworth recently about the film, B-School and his role with the NFLPA. A transcript of our conversation follows.

You obviously have a lot going on with your time at Harvard Business School and your work with the Player’s Association. Why become a producer of a film now?

I signed on to produce this movie because it shines a spotlight on the inequities and hypocrisy of big-time college sports. College athletes don’t have a platform or a voice–and I’m hoping this film, like Taylor [Branch’s] article in The Atlantic a few years ago, will elevate the dialogue around this topic and help inspire some change in the business of college athletics.

What do you want people to take away from this film they may not know about before:

The main message I want to get across is that athletes deserve a place at the table. The framework of how decisions are being made today is unbalanced and it always has been.

How does your role in the film work?

I was approached by the other producers through some mutual friends, and I was well aware of Taylor Branch’s article and his book. It was a cause I believe in, and I was able to use my connections to help them get access to many of the athletes in the film that they were having trouble lining up. It was a very worthwhile experience and I’m hoping it is extremely educational for those who see it.

Is this an issue about top athletes in football and basketball getting paid, or is there a bigger issue you want to address?

I have said this before but I see many similarities in what is going on in college sports, to the Civil Rights movement. It is the same basic principle where you have a large group not being fairly represented in the decision-making process. Until things change and athletes have a seat at the table, the system of college athletics is broken.

You certainly seemed to have an outstanding experience at the University of Maryland as a student-athlete. Is this something that was fulminating then but you didn’t speak about until later on?

As a college athlete I benefited from the experience and despite the system, as I always saw the inequity in what was going on. Athletes’ undergraduate degree options are dictated by the team schedule. And, there are many majors you would like to pursue–engineering, math, sciences–but you can’t, because of the hours those classes require. The expectation is that my primary responsibility is to the team–which means 5am work-outs, practice, weight room training, watching film, travel for games. There are so many constraints on an athlete’s time, it limits your experience–both in school and after college.”

What is the one thing that you want people to walk away from the film remembering? 

That the system is broken, and while many think it is about getting a degree…a degree in college means very little without having gotten a true education, and that’s what happens many times. You get a degree from a school, but don’t have the classes or experience to get you started in a meaningful career away from sports.

How does a project like this, and an issue like this, fit into your work with the Players Association?

I have approached my job with the NFLPA as an opportunity to ensure equitable solutions for challenges in pro football. And I’ve had the good fortune to leverage that bully pulpit to help call attention to inequities in other areas–such as the debate about gay marriage, and now with the film in exploring the imbalance of the financial model in big-time college athletics. If there are inequities in the system and I can help affect change, I’m all for that, and feel like it is my duty to get involved.

Is there a way to balance all this work and your time at the B School?

It is certainly a challenge and my focus is what I am doing at Harvard during the day, and I fill in around it, as well as balancing family life. They are all great opportunities and I’m very fortunate to have them all at once.

Photo via NFLPA

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