Los Angeles (AFP) – Former NFL stars including Ricky Williams and Terrell Owens on Thursday announced a new American Football league that Williams hopes will “change the conversation” around the gridiron game.
The Freedom Football League doesn’t have a launch date, but Williams said it will begin with 10 teams and play in the North American spring and summer to avoid clashing with the mighty NFL.
The FFL said in a press release that players in the league will be encouraged to “address society’s challenges relating to social justice, wealth disparity, health and wellness and more hot-button issues they are passionate about.”
The league said players will also receive “permanent and reliable holistic health and wellness support on and off the field.”
“We’re trying to develop young men,” Williams told ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
“You can’t take away their voice and expect them to develop. … When I grew up watching football, I really wanted to be like Jim Brown, not because of what he did on a field, but because he could take that platform and have a voice.
“And so, when I got to the NFL, expecting that to be the case, anytime a big social issue came up, we were told, ‘Be quiet. … It’s a distraction.’ And so, really, (we’re) changing the conversation.”
Williams, one of 31 players to surpass 10,000 career rushing yards in the NFL, said that “a lot of things have changed” since the launch of the NFL, the massively popular league that is now being sued by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who alleges team owners conspired to keep him out of the league after he chose to kneel during the pre-game national anthem to protest social injustice.
The FFL said in its release that a coalition of 50 former players had been working for two years on the framework of the league, which will debut with 10 teams: the Birmingham Kings, Connecticut Underground, Florida Strong, Oakland Panthers, Ohio Players, Oklahoma City Power, Portland Progress, St. Louis Independence, San Diego Warriors and Texas Revolution.
Other former NFL players involved are Simeon Rice, Jeff Garcia, Bryon Chamberlain and Dexter Jackson.
The FFL is just the latest new American football league to be announced.
World wrestling tycoon Vince McMahon’s new XFL is to kick off in 2020 in a reboot of a competition that lasted for one season in 2001, and the Alliance of American Football League is due to kick off on February 9, 2019.