Disgraced Olympian likens athlete contracts to 'slave chains' in Ibram Kendi's ESPN series premiere

On Sept. 20, Boston University Professor Ibram X. Kendi debuted a new ESPN+ series, Skin in the Game, which 'challenges racism in the sports world.'

Former Olympian Gwendolyn Berry spoke of the hardships she and other black athletes have allegedly faced, calling black athletes 'the new slaves.'

According to a new ESPN show, black athletes being compensated millions of dollars for playing professional sports is the modern-day version of slavery in America. 

On Sept. 20, leading anti-racist Boston University Professor Ibram X. Kendi debuted a new ESPN+ series, Skin in the Game, which “challenges racism in the sports world” and “will reveal how pervasive racism is in sports.”

The series premiere featured former Mississippi State University football player Kylin Hill, who took a public stand in 2020 in support of Mississippi changing its 1894 flag that featured the Confederate battle emblem. After Governor Tate Reeves criticized a proposal to add a second state flag, calling it the “separate but equal” flag option, Hill tweeted, “Either change the flag or I won’t be representing this State anymore.”

Hill, a starting running back for Mississippi State at the time, said in the episode he was prepared for the backlash, which allegedly included threats to him and his family, and late-night phone calls to his house with repeated uses of the N-word.

“Y’all just love me when I run the football,” Hill said. “But as soon as I speak on one topic, just one topic, everybody’s against me, telling me to be quiet, telling me to ‘hush, shut up, just run the football, go lift weights or something.’ Political and football, it’s like they divide it with a big line through it.”

[RELATED: College sports championships can go on in Mississippi after flag change]

But only about eight minutes of the episode were focused on Hill, with both the intro and outro featuring a smattering of statements from actor Guy Torry and record executive DJ Drama, among others. 

DJ Drama praised the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream players for their 2020 protest of then-Senator and team part-owner Kelly Loeffler, and for openly supporting Democrat Raphael Warnock in his election bid against her. 

“They were able to use their platform to really get her ousted and help Warnock get elected,” DJ Drama said in the premiere.

There was also a lengthy talk show-type discussion among Kendi, former Olympian Gwendolyn Berry, and ESPN senior writer Howard Bryant.

Berry, who came under fire for raising her fist at the podium in the 2019 Pan American Games, spoke of the backlash she and other black athletes have allegedly faced, comparing sports contracts to slavery.

“It’s almost like the contracts are the new slave chains,”  Berry said.  “If you break that, that’s your livelihood, that’s your life.  So we the new slaves – athletes are literally the new slaves.”

[RELATED: Professor pounces on Amy Coney Barrett’s family: ‘Some White colonizers adopted Black children’]

Kendi closed the episode by criticizing what he sees as black players being forced to play while ignoring what is wrong in their communities.

“Black athletes are supposed to compete for their countries, cities, and towns, but ignore the people suffering in them? Really?,” Kendi asked. “Ignore the justice, violence, and inequity, and just keep on playing, as if they don’t feel, as if they don’t have skin in the game?”

Campus Reform reached out to all parties listed for comment. This story will be updated accordingly.