Ex-NFL players create Freedom Football League

Another professional football league — the Freedom Football League — has been created by former NFL players, including Ricky Williams, Terrell Owens and Simeon Rice, with the intention of “reimagining, rethinking, reinventing and reforming” the game, it was announced Thursday.

Williams, appearing on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Thursday, said there are 50 former players among the approximately 100 stakeholders. Other early founders include former NFL players Byron Chamberlain, Jeff Garcia and Dexter Jackson.

“The purpose of this league … is about community and the development of players,” Williams told OTL. “… In thinking about creating this league, I wanted to create a league that I could have stayed in and been comfortable and really thrived.

“The NFL started a long time ago, and since then a lot of things have changed. And we want to create a league that’s ready for that change and invite some more of it.”

The FFL said the league would initially have 10 teams — with plans to expand into additional locations — and games would take place during the spring and summer.

The league did not say when it would begin play, though it did say the first 10 teams would be the San Diego Warriors, Oklahoma City Power, Portland Progress, Texas Revolution, Ohio Players, Florida Strong, Birmingham Kings, St. Louis Independence, Connecticut Underground and Oakland Panthers.

The FFL said in a statement that its mission is “to attract football players at their highest level of athletic ability, including those defecting from the NFL, graduating college or high school or playing in international or alternative professional football leagues.”

The league said it would be financed through a combination of private funding and public offerings in 2019, meaning fans would be “true owners and legally-committed business partners.”

As for players, the FFL said it would ensure they would receive “permanent and reliable holistic health and wellness support on and off the field.” In addition, the league said it would encourage athletes to address societal challenges and other “hot-button” issues.

“We’re trying to develop young men,” Williams said on OTL. “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.”

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