Haiti and the NFL: Toussaint Tyler and Battling TBI

Slave Rebellion of 1793: Legacy to be Revived from the Graveyard of True Revolutionary Zeal

In exile at St. Helena, when asked about his dishonorable treatment of Toussaint, Napoleon merely remarked, “What could the death of one wretched Negro mean to me?”

The Black Napoleon, or that’s what former slave Toussaint L’Ouverture was called. Get this, historians – the leader of the only successful slave revolt in modern history in effect defeated the genocidal white trash that is part of France’s legacy.  Haiti – that French colony, and he was the son of Gaou Guinon, an African prince captured by slavers. Sent to that white French genocidal colony of Saint Dominque.

Toussaint, born May 20, 1743, under the Code Noir, that black code that legalized all the harsh punishment (treatment) of slaves. Property. L’Ouverture was allowed unlimited access to a library of the manager of the Breda plantation. His godfather was a priest, Simon Baptiste, a kind fellow who taught the young Toussaint to read and write.

I’ll come back to L’Ouverture in a minute, first moving to a new friend, Toussaint Tyler, named after L’Ouverture. Mr. Tyler and I met recently, coming into the office at my day job as social worker for homeless folk, stuck in a system of addiction, criminal charges, mental health challenges. Portland, Oregon, and Mr. Tyler and I are quickly brothers in arms, looking at our six decades on Planet Earth as one of struggle, triumph, exasperation, recrimination, rejoicing, repulsion, anger, happiness, and revolt. I am more settled into my anti-Capitalist fervor than is this man of god, myself having declared anarchism and socialism and communism as the only way out of this warring white Capitalism that has decimated tribes and cultures and entire races of people. Early in my scattered life.

My friendships with men like Toussaint Tyler, Sr., are based on deeply held respect for the individual coursing through capitalism’s hall of horrors.

Mr. Tyler, homeless, in a shelter, introduces me to his older brother who had just gotten out of prison, 25 years straight time. His brother is the gifted and focused one in the family. Mr. TNT Tyler says his brother, who was just released from McNeil Island Corrections Center in Pierce County, Washington, is the smartest and ablest fellow around, who entered into a life of crime ripping off rich folk and faced the music here in Oregon with some hard-hard time in prison in Washington. Where his brother learned the law, learned his own new mission in life, and who is now more than just an inspiration for Toussaint.

Toussaint Tyler, once the leading rusher as fullback for the University of Washington Huskies. He was born in Barstow, California. His nickname was TNT Tyler, called one of the greatest fullbacks in Husky history. Punishing running style and bone-crushing blocking. We are talking about a 58-year-old man who has seen the gridiron since age nine, a man today who is forgetful and now homeless, who has been couch surfing for years, who once had glory and wives, and who is now awaiting a brain scan, ordered by the National Football League.

TNT and I talk about the Will Smith movie, “Concussion,” a flick Tyler saw when it came out two years ago. “Man, I just started crying when I saw my life in many ways depicted on the screen.” This is the rotten NFL, the elite owners, the chosen few paper jockeys and lawyers and MBAs, who watch mostly people of color slam bodies and craniums into each other for a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry akin to Roman times gladiator exploitation.

Enslavement. Boys hitting each other in Barstow or Compton or Baltimore or Toledo.

The NFL, a non-profit shit-storm of Predatory Capitalists using the dumb-downing of America to fill stadiums, land TV/Cable contracts and sell the junk of faux celebrity. Tyler had his own trading card with the New Orleans Saints. Tyler traveled the country and the world as a football hero. Over six feet two inches, 240 pounds, a hard-hitting man who has admitted to more than a dozen concussions.

He’s been in and out of recovery – pain pills, cocaine, opioids, and booze. He was riding a wave of limelight as a former player in the NFL, including the Saints and Minnesota Vikings . . . decades of Traumatic Brain Injury depression and outbursts of angry, physicality.

I run my life around narratives, around the people who have intersected with me as dive master, photographer, journalist, teacher, social worker, traveler, and activist.

His story now, after my sixty years on planet earth, hits me hard – heavy on a personal level, both positive and negative. Exploitation of the black man by the elite, by the worthless white men in suits and ties, those golf-loving whites, the money men, the tribe of shekel collectors, the very tribe of men who that mythical Jesus Christ went to town on upsetting the money changers’ money tables.

Harvard, Yale, law schools of the elite, MBAs from large Division One schools, running poor whites and blacks and Latinos into the ground, to the grave, through the psych wards, under the belly of the beast of drug addiction, homelessness, and the halls of criminal injustice.

Tyler tells me about his father, an amazingly talented man, self-taught, who was a lightweight boxer, who had seven kids. Mother who worked for the government. Their United States of Israel roots not from California but from Arkansas and Baton Rouge. Tyler traces his African roots to Sierra Leone.

“I never understood why I was crying all the time, and depressed.” He has had a knee replacement. Tyler shows me both wrists – big surgical scars from massive fractures from defenders slamming helmets and face-guards into his body. “I am beat-up, for sure. I forget things. The NFL knew in 1954 that head trauma from pounding gridiron players hitting each other caused permanent brain damage – shrinking, permanent atrophying of parts of the brain, a sloshing of parts of the brain.”

This is the American way – full-throttle exploitation, on the field, in the workplace, in neighborhoods. The elite, polluting cities, our air, the water, our children’s minds, the dreams of adults, and the hopes of the aged.

We are one giant Trumplandia Casino Capitalism Continuing Criminal Enterprise. Signing our death warrants. Tyler, lasting four years in the NFL, and ending up as a juvenile detention officer for King County (Seattle), working with 12 to 17 year olds locked up in a county lock-down facility.

He was in his addiction then, as a county official, and he worked hard on gang-prevention and working with troubled youth in King County, Washington.

Tyler today continues to talk about living a lie most of his life – chasing women and fame, drugs and money. “I didn’t need football to make it in life,” he says. He is so sure that youth should not be playing football until their brains are fully developed. Tyler tells me that he was at Roosevelt High School in Portland recently, and saw a little kid, an eight-year-old, laying on the ground, crying about his head hurting after taking a hit on the football field.

I’m glad my sons didn’t play football. If I could do life all over again, I would have never played football, gone into basketball.

One son, Toussaint Tyler Jr., played college basketball for Central Washington University. A story was written up about the sixth man for the men’s basketball team, Mr. Tyler’s son. Tattoos all over his body – rib-cage, wrist, knee, shoulder. Each inscription plays a significant reminder to TNT’s son about where he comes from, where he is going and where he doesn’t want to go:
• Me Against the World
• Respect Few, Feat None
• Family Forever
• Brotherhood
• Only God Can Judge Me
• Tha Truth
• All Eyez on Me

Toussaint Tyler Sr. is talking about the class action lawsuit against the NFL, a party of over 22,000 claiming NFL negligence, asking for money to cover years of drug abuse, psychiatric breaks, incarceration, broken marriages, failed relationships, split-up families, and internal anger-confusion-dementia.

These white so-called leaders, elites going to their elite children’s Christenings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, going to their dear children’s graduations from elite universities, law schools and business colleges, they are demons, felonious, as criminal as criminality can come, laughing all the way to the bank, living it up in their five homes each, jet-setting the globe with the blood and brains of the real workers, the real heroes, wiped all over their zero escape clause contracts. All those One percenters and their Little Eichmann agents and riffraff controlling the lives of the sacrificial lambs.

Sure, we can Google (another massively screwed up project of control run by another set of war-loving elites) Toussaint Tyler and see he was the only one in pro-Football to knock out Lawrence Taylor. Sure, Toussaint is gunning for getting onto various boards – Urban League, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, etc. – and wanting to help turn lives around. Sure, Toussaint wants the homeless in Portland – some really raw characters that make Charles Dickens’ novels seem like Mister Rogers Neighborhoods – to be helped. Toussaint Tyler asks me to stay with the non-profit I was working at. Wants me to meet bigwigs and help sell programs to the elite in Portland (Intel, Nike, adidas, et al).

I want to throw in with Toussaint Tyler, Sr. – I want to hit up these metro sexuals, these gentrifying elites, these bourgeoisie, these Bill Gates and Paul Allens and Phil Knights types to get down to real business, to getting their bullshit philanthropic ideals into real gear. We need to help the homeless and the drug addicted get on their feet with REAL programs, with solid recovery, where they can get SPECIAL treatment, in a time of Neoliberalism and Trumplandia. We are running non-profits with genuflecting and begging, hoping for social workers to get to work with shitty pay and tons of on-the-job trauma. My non-profit gets grants, and we are hobbled by the constraints of the millionaire class, and the state and county and city agencies.

Being homeless usually means trauma in each and everyone’s lives – beaten down in families, drugs, sexually abused, the physically kicked down, psychic knockdowns, punished into the criminal justice system, hobbled by the debt levelers, controlled by the broken education system, held down by the business community, the exploitation class, and held back by bureaucracies of evil.

College bowls for Toussaint – Rose Bowl and Sun Bowl champion; in another Rose Bowl, Hula Bowl, Japan Bowl, San Diego Hall of Fame. Second-team Pac 10 running back for two years. Honored as a Huskie Legend, NFL Alumni.

“None of it matters. I am in a new life, starting new.” He ended up dead on arrival, in Pullman, Washington, three years ago, 60 pills swallowed in a suicide cocktail. He had done a lot of crack to make those head blows and shitty life decisions and all those mammas to his six kids sort of go away, or at least level out the pain of all those valleys and rock bottoms which are the geography of his spiritual and psychological life.

Ahh, Haiti, and the despicable French, then, now, forever – defeated by a slave, who read voraciously, especially Enlightenment thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one member of early moderate revolutionaries who considered seriously the question of slavery. As is the case of most French thinkers, these moderate revolutionaries were not willing to end slavery.

Applying the “Rights of Man” to all Frenchmen, including free blacks and mulattoes (those of mixed race), the so-called revolutionaries gave into the plantation owners in the colonies who were furious and fought the measure. In 1791 the measure was retracted.

This betrayal triggered slave revolts in Saint Dominique (soon called Haiti), and Toussaint quickly became leader of the slave rebellion. L’Ouverture (the one who finds an opening) was added to his name, as he led a rag-tag army. For anyone listening to the unheralded voices of the people’s history, he or she can take his hat off and honor Toussaint who successfully fought the French, whose numbers were also decimated by a yellow fever outbreak.

He fought seven battles in seven days and defeated the French. As is the true DNA of the white race, the French wanted business as usual, desiring Haiti to go back to slavery and colonial rule. In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte wanted Haiti out of his hair, agreed to its independence and Toussaint agreed to retire from public office. Eventually Napoleon, as is so true of many of the French’s DNA code, invited Toussaint to a meeting under the promise of his protection. The French Army arrested Toussaint, put him on a ship headed for France, and Napoleon ordered D’Ouverture to suffer in a mountain dungeon where he was starved to death with all number of depravations put upon the Haitian hero.

Getting Haiti off his back, Napoleon gave up Haiti to independence and sold the French territory in North America (the Louisiana Purchase) to the United States.

Toussaint Tyler, Sr., named after the great Haitian hero, sits with me in my office, and we go over his plans to get his driver’s license back, plans to get him a job at $11 an hour, and plans to come back to life as a community organizer. He’s forgetful, having left his satchel on the Portland light rail (MAX) with his photo IDs and social security card inside.

He tears up when telling me about his granddaughter, Serayah McNeill, who plays Tiana on the hip-hop TV series, “The Empire.” Daughter of his eldest son, Serayah is a talented musician, athlete, and can do anything, Toussaint tells me. Her very presence on TV, her thriving life, her existence is a testament to her succeeding and a reminder to her grandfather that he once was in her life as a child and now he’s been MIA for years. “She reminds me of how I screwed up so many people’s lives.”

This is the story in America, one I touch daily, with men mostly, and the years taken away by drugs, by incarceration, racism, shitty employment, all told, millions of lives destroyed by the white man’s bad seed, fall from his and her own grace. The decades and centuries of structural and mitochondrial determinants in the success and failures of an entire group of people who made this country, built the fucking White House, put the land to work, harvested and swaddled the white woman’s children, what a travesty.

Repeated daily from sea to shining sea, exploitation after exploitation. And the NFL, microcosm of the chosen ones’ destruction of almost anything good, tribal, hating all people’s who live lives far from the money printing presses, the coin of the realm – slavery for enriching the few, the fattening up of these voracious people eaters, these lovers of anything close or aberrant to what the entire Trump legacy represents: the people who run the rackets of college sports and professional gladiatorial athletics, or replace sports with big pharma, big business, big military-surveillance-punishment complex, big ag, big food, big medicine, big media, big education. These people are the ones that deserve a million slave rebellions run by the likes of Toussaint D’Ouverture.

The rabid dog, ahh, the beheading is necessary for the safety of the village. Yet, it’s all flipped backwards – the elite, the weakest, the minority of all minorities, the Chosen One Percent living out their blasphemy until old age, while the good and best the world can offer, murdered, slowly, quickly, at the moment of birth. America – the racket, the thug nature of this warring nation, the disharmony of the children sucked into diabetes and mental stasis created by the chosen few’s tools of control: food, consumer popular culture, Hollywood, media, digital dumb-downing.

Here, from the movie, Concussion, the doctor, Bennet Omalu, asking why the world doesn’t want to know about his research into football head injuries and players’ deaths, suicides, incapacitating pain, drug addiction, incarceration, murders:

Dr. Bennet Omalu: What do they want?

Dr. Cyril Wecht: The NFL wants you to say you made it all up.

Dr. Bennet Omalu: I made it up?

Dr. Cyril Wecht: They’re accusing you of fraud.

Dr. Ron Hamilton: If you retract, you’ll be fine. This all goes away.

Dr. Bennet Omalu: Why? Why are they all doing this?

Dr. Cyril Wecht: They’re terrified of you. Bennet Omalu is going to war with a corporation that has 20 million people on a weekly basis craving their product the same way they crave food. The NFL owns a day of the week, the same day the Church used to own. Now it’s theirs. They’re very big.

Note: A forensic pathologist, Omalu conducted the autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, which led to his discovery of a new disease that he named chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. He is currently the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, Calif. and a professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

These one percenters and their 19 percenter Little Eichmanns holding up their universal Capitalist scam, they are perpetuating the chronic traumatic encephalopathy onto all aspects of society with each experiment deemed necessary to create legions upon legions of marks, the exploited, the punished, the destitute, the near homeless, all of us shoved into their consumer prisons for the pleasure of their sin upon humanity. Greed, prostitution, elimination.

At eight years of age, I knew I was going to be in the NFL. I was the fourth all-time leading rusher for UW. But my life is more than that, I know now. I’ve lived a life for and about Toussaint Tyler. It’s been a selfish life. I want to work to help this community, these people on the streets outside. Man, all messed up on meth, dirty, on the streets, sleeping in alleyways. We have to find a way to help them.

So continues the dilemma of the One Percent, the Churches, the Poverty Pimps, all those non-profits run for the pleasure of a few at the top. So goes the journey of Toussaint Tyler, invoking just a little bit of his Haitian namesake’s rebellion.

Each day it becomes clearer to me that those in state capitols and on K-street, Wall Street, in the corridors of power, peopling the think tanks and commissions and secretive world of the bankers and bankrollers of pain, shame, war.  They are the giant tapeworm eating at the soul of humanity. Clearer and clearer that the exiled, the broken, the incarcerated and just let out, the Toussaints and a million others, they have the power of lucidity, the power of perspective, and the power of seeing outside the miasma of this country’s madness.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if the magic wand pushed a giant interstellar vacuum onto the earth that sucked up all the detritus on this planet – those buttoned up thieves lusting for their gigantic thefts, uniformed weapon lusting hoards lusting for war, all those coders and money changers, the renter class, the bankers, the technologists, the entire army of takers.

Toussaint and I hug, as I say good-bye on my last day at one non-profit as I move to another. Life is slipstream, the sum total of serendipity, these chance encounters, as my brain folds more of what I know is social justice and revolutionary focus. He and I come from two different worlds, and belief systems, yet, well, what more can a brotherhood bring than the joy of understanding those who are different but cut from the same cloth of wanting justice and seeking enlightenment.

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.