Former Ravens and Terps cornerback Domonique Foxworth hasn’t played in the NFL since 2011 but is still often at the center of sports discourse. Foxworth, who spent seven years with the Ravens, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, has seen his presence on ESPN increase heavily since joining The Undefeated, ESPN’s platform covering the intersections of race, sports and culture, in 2016. The Western Tech graduate works as a writer for The Undefeated and is a frequent guest on shows such as First Take and Around the Horn. He previously worked for both the NFL and NBA players associations.

The Baltimore Sun spoke with Foxworth about his increasing role with ESPN, his thoughts on the NFL’s looming collective bargaining agreement negotiations and more.

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Your presence on ESPN has increased, with you being featured on various shows and your work with The Undefeated. I know this wasn’t something you initially envisioned, so how did you end up at this point?

It was something that I wanted to steer away from, honestly. After I was done playing, I wanted to prove to myself and prove generally to other people that I was more than a football player or athlete and I could be successful off the field. That’s part of the reason why I went to business school. I took the job with the NBA Players Association in New York. Living in Manhattan with my wife, who was pregnant at the time, and we had two kids, was difficult. I would be getting to work at like 7 in the morning and leaving at 7 at night every day. ... Just going to work and not being happy. Fortunately, I had played long enough to not have to live that way. I had enough money to not have to do that. So I quit the job.

While the kids were finishing up school in New York before we came back home, I started writing just because I liked writing. And it was mostly about more social and personal stuff. I wrote about the movie “Concussion” and I wrote about James Blake, the tennis player who was accosted by the police in New York. From there, ESPN came around and it was coincidental that they were opening up this Undefeated office in D.C., and my wife is from D.C., so we were planning on coming back here because we owned a place and it all fell into place.

Is there a specific program you believe really allows you to be yourself and express your personality and views?

I think it’s more about the people that I get to work it. When I get to work with people I like and really talented people, it’s fun. Mina Kimes is someone who I really love working with. I enjoy working with Stephen A. [Smith], as contentious as our interactions may come across. He’s just such a professional. He makes doing the job easy on you and he knows how to pull good stuff out of everybody, which is good. ... Also, I think I was not a great player by any stretch. So there’s a challenge to doing this when you don’t have the credibility that comes with having a big name or Pro Bowls under your belt or Super Bowl championships and that sort of thing. There’s pressure to be more creative and I appreciate that.

I think one thing people don’t realize is how much work goes into putting these programs together. What does that preparation look like for you?

It’s a lot, you’re right. I don’t even think I realized it before. Of the things that we’re preparing for and reading about and when we’re planning out these shows, maybe 25% goes into it. It’s certainly nothing to complain about. ... I guess the only thing worse is engaging on Twitter, which I’m not really engaged, relative to my peers.

“I left business school being less focused on money and realizing there are much more important things.”


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What was your experience like leading the NFLPA and what did it teach you about the game and life beyond the game?

I think it gave me the confidence to apply to the Harvard Business School, frankly. Prior to interacting with those people — owners, commissioner [Roger Goodell] and all those people who are at the top of the league — I think I always defined myself as an athlete. People always thought I was a smart athlete, but I still looked to people who ran big companies and made billions of dollars as smarter than me.

That experience kind of opened my eyes. I didn’t think that they were dumb by any stretch, but we were of similar intelligence and that was eye-opening to me. Just recognizing that they had gotten to their place of success through some hard work and serendipity, that was the first time I was like, “Maybe I can go and do something as big or bigger elsewhere.” And that’s when I was like, “All right, when I’m done playing I’m going to go to the best business school in the world,” and that worked out for me. Surprisingly when I was there, part of why I wanted to go there was the competitive streak. It’s like, alright, I made X amount of dollars in the NFL. I want to turn that into so much more money. When I got to business school, as counterintuitive as it sounds, I left business school being less focused on money and realizing there are much more important things, which I don’t think people expect to happen when you go to the capitalist mecca that is Harvard Business School.

There has been a lot of speculation regarding the 2021 offseason. A lot of people are predicting a lengthy lockout. Have you spoken to any players about that and what did you learn from the last lockout in 2011?

It’s hard to predict how these things are going to go, but I’d be surprised if they miss any games. I think everyone realizes that will be bad for the product going forward. I’ve talked to a lot of members of the executive committee and leadership of the players union. I think they sound resolute in trying to get the things that they want.

You never really know how things are going to go until you get down to those last couple hours, which is something I learned from the last process. Everybody talks a big game, everybody is tough and strong and can withstand and is fine if we go into the season and miss some checks until the time comes when you might actually have to miss some checks. There’s 1,800 guys and you can be sure quite a few of the 1,800 are not up for any sort of labor strike.

In 2011, how big was the issue of expanding the regular season?

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It was something that the owners thought early was very important and they pushed very hard early on, but it fell off quickly. It was not something that they were going to slam the table for. It seemed like something they cared about in the early months, but as time went on, it was gone pretty quickly.

Do you think this issue will come up again in 2021?

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I think it will. ... You have to grow and there are very few ways for the league to grow revenue, especially when there seems to be not much of an international appetite for NFL football. That’s the pitch to the players, that there’s more money.

I’ve at least heard some more creative ideas for how they want to do this, if it’s adding one more playoff team to each side, which is just two more games and potentially some more money. They’re going to find a way to increase revenue. I think that’s important to everyone and adding games is the easiest way, but there’s always a drawback. There’s always unforeseen circumstances of these types of decisions in CBA negotiations.

What was your initial reaction to Andrew Luck’s retirement and do you think his decision changes the way players prioritize their bodies and teams prioritize franchise quarterbacks?

I think it has changed, gradually over time. I don’t think Andrew Luck’s decision is going to impact the way any players think about this stuff, because I think it’s an intensely personal decision. How much you value this sport and the cost of this game, physical and mental.

For teams, it should open their eyes because I think prior to the last five years or so, this is a new phenomenon where guys are comfortable enough to walk away, near or in their prime. ... It’s an eye-opening thing for organizations and they should be aware of what they can do to prevent something like that going forward. But I don’t think it changes much for the player because it’s so personal.

And lastly, with you being a local guy, what are your thoughts on the Ravens and Terps football this season?

Both answers come down to the same thing, I think they’re both really good coaches. Coach [Mike Locksley] hasn’t been proven to be a good head coach yet, but I think he’s shown some of the abilities you think you need for a good head coach. I’m more optimistic about Maryland than I’ve been in a while.

As for Baltimore, Coach [John] Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the league. As long as you have that, you’re going to have a chance. As you know, they’ve never been out of it. Ozzie Newsome moving on is going to be tough to replace because I think he’s arguably the best general manager in the history of the sport. ... That’s a big hole that you won’t fill immediately. I think Coach Harbaugh’s ability to galvanize the team is something that is reliable. I’m not thinking they’re a Super Bowl contender this year. If Lamar [Jackson] can mature, and with Coach Harbaugh, they’ll be respectable and probably back to Super Bowl contention in the near future.

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