This post originally appeared as a Tweetstorm on July 3rd, 2018.

I will never understand how billionaire team owners have convinced the public that the players, who put their bodies on the line every week and make less than 50% of league revenue, are the “ungrateful” ones.

Considering football’s level of brute, immanent physicality, high turnover as well as the short life cycle of its participants, it would seem to me that NFL players are in the most need of fully guaranteed contracts.

Many argue that trying to compare the league-player dynamic in the NFL with other sports is apples to oranges. Yes & no. League revenues are skyrocketing, a monster media rights deal is on the horizon, the business of football will never be the same. …

This post originally appeared on The Player’s Tribune on October 13th, 2017.

Fellow NFL Players,

By now you’ve likely read the commissioner’s letter addressed to NFL executives and have seen reports about the league’s upcoming meetings. It occurs to me that any attempt to respond collectively as players is complicated by numerous challenges, and that our options for speaking with one voice are limited. This means we can either wait until we receive our respective marching orders, speak up individually, or find a way to collaborate and exercise our agency as the lifeblood of the league.

Over the past few years, I’ve thought a lot about how we might have a meaningful conversation together. I wish it were as simple as public perception would have you believe — that we all have each other’s cellphone numbers and hang out together on a regular basis. Since that’s not the case, I hope this letter reaches as many active players as possible, and serves as a catalyst to convene a conversation among those of us who are uncomfortable having important decisions made without us in the room. …

This post originally appeared on The Player’s Tribune on September 2nd, 2016.

The more I read about the controversy surrounding 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to not stand during the national anthem, and his efforts to shine a light on injustice in this country, the more I think about Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

In 1968, in the midst of heated racial tension, Smith and Carlos used their platforms to change the world. At the Summer Olympics that year, Smith earned a gold medal in the men’s 200-meter dash, while Carlos won a bronze, and during the medal ceremony the two engaged in a powerful demonstration. …

Always a fan of innovation, when I heard about Loftium’s business model, I knew I wanted to learn more. After living in Seattle for several years, and returning regularly to engage with the community and the students in my Nonprofit Foundation, I’ve continued to be actively involved in finding new ways to build and leverage skills of people in underserved areas of the city. This includes finding new areas of opportunity and eliminating the barriers in-place for people to live and have experiences they would normally be excluded from.

For most, the idea of homeownership is just a pipedream, especially in a city like Seattle with median home prices of $690K, up 15% over the past year (Zillow). When Loftium Founder, Yifan Zhang, realized there was something unique she could do to serve the non-elite, generating income for them, and for a business herself, she formulated a plan for homeownership to no longer be an impossibility for those without “the parents to help, or the high income to save while paying rent”(NY Times). …

I returned home last night after practice and turned on ESPN to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers face off against New York Knicks. After the final buzzer sounded, LeBron James immediately embraced his longtime friend and business partner Maverick Carter. The moment was poignant, considering just a month or so ago, Carter was reduced to a member of James’ “posse,” according to the Knicks’ GM, Phil Jackson.

Just as Jackson touched a nerve in James a few weeks ago with his reference to James’ business partners as his “posse”, he struck a chord in me and other black professional athletes as well. …

Anxiety over the Election Is Mirroring Anxiety over Football

If there is one thing just about every single American can agree on, it is that we all cannot wait for this election to be over. In fact, a recent poll found that four out of five Americans wish it was over and nearly three-fourths said the election is causing stress. This disillusionment with our political system is creating crippling distrust in our political leaders and the mass media we rely on for information.

Nigeria has been in my heart since childhood. Born in Texas to two Nigerian parents, I grew up celebrating African food and culture, while respecting the discipline that plays a central role in so many Nigerian families. This dual-culture experience makes me who I am today — a proud Nigerian-American.

As part of my upbringing, my mother believed it was crucially important to understand where I came from and develop a sense of connection to my “motherland.” Occasional trips to Nigeria introduced me to vibrant communities, helping to create memories of a place that was rich in so many ways.

Fast forward two decades and I am stunned by the dismantling of those memories. The country I had grown to love as a boy has eroded. Riddled with mass corruption and downtrodden infrastructure, Nigeria seems to have become the opposite of my childhood home — a place where there is no hope. …

Continuing my pursuit of the newest tech concepts brought me back to San Francisco for the 2016 Wearable Technologies Conference. I was honored to deliver the Keynote address, When Sports & Technology Collide, to kickoff the second day of the conference.

I spoke about the power of a changed mind. A few years ago while playing for the Seattle Seahawks, I was introduced to Fatigue Science. We had a new nemesis — we had to compete against each other to get the best sleep! At first, I just wanted to win, but through the process I learned I was restless for much of the night, getting only a few hours of deep sleep. …

It’s no secret that I’m passionate about startups and funding companies as they follow through with their innovative, ground-breaking dreams, so I’m particularly excited about a recent trip I took to Silicon Valley.

While there I had the opportunity to visit several notable startups and investment firms, speaking with founders, investors and executives. I stopped by Greylock Partners, IVP, Jawbone, Uber, Redpoint Ventures and Juicero. While I’m no stranger to entrepreneurship or startup companies, two related themes stood out during my trip:

  • You have to be able to adapt if you want to succeed
  • You’re never done getting better

These lessons really resonated with me given that they apply on the football field as much as they do in business. …

As a new Colorado resident, I’m excited to explore my new state and especially the innovative and entrepreneurial community here. Entrepreneurship is a personal passion of mine and I thoroughly enjoy any opportunity to meet leaders in the field and innovators working on new great things. I’m excited to be in Denver, and so close to Boulder, not only because I’m excited to play for the Broncos, but also because Denver and Boulder are both thriving and growing startup centers. …


Russell Okung

Left Tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers

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