During Friday’s episode of “The Shop” on HBO, basketball player LeBron James unfavorably compared the NFL with the NBA, claiming that the league is run by men with a “slave mentality.”
In the NFL, they got a bunch of old white men owning teams, and they got that slave mentality. And it’s like, “This is my team. You do what the f*** I tell y’all to do or we get rid of y’all.”
The episode featured businessman Maverick Carter, football player Todd Gurley, late-night talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel, and actor Ice Cube.
Leading up to James’ remark, the group had the following exchange:
CARTER: Todd … do you feel like the protests are over? Like, it was a big deal. You hear talk, rumblings about it around the league anymore at all?
GURLEY: Not that much –
CARTER: It’s kinda going away, right?
GURLEY: Yeah, it’s definitely, definitely gone away. For sure, it’s not like it was last year. Last year and the year before that, it was just like –
CARTER: Do you think it’s because guys are afraid that the money thing is on their head? Or is it –
GURLEY: Nah, for sure. People definitely are afraid, you know what I’m saying?
CARTER: No, like, damn, I don’t want to f*** up my career.
GURLEY: Not afraid, but it’s just like –
CARTER: They don’t want to f*** up their –
GURLEY: Exactly. Exactly. It’s definitely, it’s a touchy subject, and some guys feel some type of way. Some guys don’t. And some guys honestly could give a f*** about how somebody else feels, but, you know, you don’t want to be that type of teammate or that type of guy as well, too.
CARTER: Of course, of course. In the league, the owners, I mean, we probably all have a feeling. Why do we think they do that?
JAMES: Just control.
CARTER: And money?
ICE CUBE: I mean, they’re a whole different era, man…
JAMES: Yeah, it’s, I mean, in the NFL, they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they’ve got that slave mentally. And it’s like, “This is my team. You do what the f*** I tell y’all to do, or we get rid of y’all.”
It’s unclear what LeBron James meant when he used the phrase “slave mentality.” He didn’t elaborate any further, aside from praising the NBA for allowing its players to more freely express personal opinions.
However, as many on social media have noted, James’ seeming comparison of NFL team owners to slave owners is a poor one. While African American slaves were owned, unpaid, and treated as though they were less than human, football players in the year 2018 can choose to leave their job as a celebrity athlete at any moment (though contractual obligations might trigger a financial penalty), and according to Chron, the average player makes approximately $860,000 a year. Additionally, it’s not atypical for a company to demand that employees do their job or risk being fired.
CNBC reports that the median household income for the average American is approximately $61,372. This means that NFL players earn roughly 1,301% more than the average American.
In 2018, LeBron James inked a $154 million four-year contract with the L.A. Lakers.