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FOCUS | LeBron James: NFL Owners Are 'Old White Men' With 'Slave Mentality' Toward Players
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49790"><span class="small">Ben Golliver, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Saturday, 22 December 2018 11:56

Golliver writes: "For LeBron James, the fundamental difference between the NBA and the NFL is the level of respect shown to players by the respective leagues and their team owners."

Lebron James. (photo: MMS)
Lebron James. (photo: MMS)

LeBron James: NFL Owners Are 'Old White Men' With 'Slave Mentality' Toward Players

By Ben Golliver, The Washington Post

22 December 18


or LeBron James, the fundamental difference between the NBA and the NFL is the level of respect shown to players by the respective leagues and their team owners. The Lakers forward, who in recent years has become an increasingly outspoken advocate for professional athletes on matters of race and politics, took the NFL and its owners to task on the latest episode of “The Shop,” which aired Friday on HBO.

“In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality," James said. “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.’ ”

James, a four-time NBA MVP, made the comments in an extended conversation with his business partner Maverick Carter, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, and the actor/rapper Ice Cube.

“I’m so appreciative in our league of our commissioner [Adam Silver],” James continued. “He doesn’t mind us having ... a real feeling and to be able to express that. It doesn’t even matter if Adam agrees with what we are saying, he at least wants to hear us out. As long as we are doing it in a very educational, non-violent way, then he’s absolutely okay with it.”

The NBA and the NFL have had strikingly different approaches to player activism. In the NBA, James and others have worn T-shirts during warm-ups in recognition of victims of police violence with no repercussions from the league.

By contrast, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick set off years of controversy and debate when he knelt during the national anthem as a means to protest racial injustice. The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell responded by instituting strict guidelines for player conduct during the anthem. Kaepernick, who has not appeared in an NFL game since the 2016 season, ultimately filed a grievance against the league’s owners, alleging they colluded to keep him sidelined as a response to his protest.

The NFL and its owners have faced “slave” comparisons numerous times over the past decade. In 2011, then-Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said that the league’s labor situation was like “modern-day slavery.”

During a 2017 owners meeting in the wake of Kaepernick’s protest, then-Houston Texans owner Bob McNair reportedly told his fellow owners that, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” Former Texans wide receiver Cecil Shorts replied: “Inmates, slaves and products. That’s all we are to the owners and others.”

Over the summer, San Francisco defensive back Richard Sherman accused Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of possessing “the old plantation mentality” for requiring his players to stand at attention during the national anthem.

As Friday’s conversation on “The Shop” continued, James noted the central role that NBA and NFL players have held in growing their respective sports and suggested that NFL owners prioritize short-term results over the long-term success of individual players.

“The players are who make the ship go,” he said. “We make it go. Every Sunday, without Todd Gurley and without Odell Beckham Jr., without those players, those guys, there is no football. And it’s the same in the NBA. ... The difference between the NBA and the NFL: the NBA [cares about] what we believe [a player] can be, the potential. In the NFL, it’s what can you do for me this Sunday or this Monday or this Thursday. And if you ain’t it, we moving on.”

James stressed that he and other NBA players have still encountered resistance, even though they’ve been careful to take a non-violent approach to their activism.

“I am very educated about what I believe in and I’m not doing it in a violent way,” James said. “I’m not knocking on your door saying, ‘Listen, I’m kneeling today and if you don’t kneel with me, I’ll knock you the f-- out.’ But you know people go crazy when things are done outside the box. People don’t know how to react.”

Set in a barbershop, “The Shop” is a 30-minute conversational show. James and Carter are executive producers of the show, which is a collaboration between HBO and James’s “Uninterrupted” media company.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 22 December 2018 11:58


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+34 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-22 19:04
Le Bron is right. It is so good to have such an intelligent guy as a sports hero. His willingness to speak out on controversial issues is really a good thing for sports and society.

I doubt that football owners are capable of changing. The sport is dying and they are the cause.
+8 # gentry cooper 2018-12-22 21:06
I don't watch it anymore. Superbowl sometimes. But definitely won't watch this year. And now on any given Sunday it has to be a special team for me to watch and even then its not a given. And players taking a knee during the anthem is not the reason for my loss of interest. It is the militarism of NFL. And it is the utter contempt I have for the people in the stands who booed the players taking a knee.
+6 # Porfiry 2018-12-22 20:30
Very rich slaves at that. The only thing that will change the situation is if the players sacrifice their wealth by striking over the issue of free speech and the restoration of Kaepernick to his rightful place in the game. We'll see what wins out: Money or ethics.
+6 # gentry cooper 2018-12-22 21:21
As far as LeBron James is concerned I have nothing but respect and admiration. He has been a true leader on and off the court throughout his fantastic career. He is the complete and total embodiment of the phrases; not forgetting where you came from, and giving back to the community. LeBron James is of the same mold as another Cleveland great, Jim Brown. Let us not forget the great community work Jim Brown has done also.
athletic great. Jim Brown.
+8 # treerapper 2018-12-23 04:14
LeBron James has continued in the vein of Ali. One cannot be silent in the face of injustice and having access to the media gives all these players an access that the average person doesn't have. It's critical to use that access to heighten awareness of all the "business as usual" abuses that exist. Bravo, LeBron. As Philip Berrigan always said "Dissent without resistance is consent".
+1 # Sir Morien 2018-12-23 22:59
This categorization of the political-econo my of professional athletics is not at all new. (c.f. The Struggle That Must Be by Harry Edwards or Forty Million Dollar Slaves by William Rhoden) What is new, however, is the revival of Ali-type outspokenness of athletes who have experienced unparalleled success. It has been summoned by the Robber Baron mentality that has been unleashed and fully authorized in the Season of Trump! Kaepernick took an enormous hit that others in the professedly more tolerant NBA--a profession I would not buy completely--lik e Michael Jordan and Shakil O'Neal would not dare.

The systemic links to ownership, media profits, collegiate athletic programs and all of the money at the heart of it all must be understood and dissected before LeBron's claims can be fully credited! Let's see an analysis of how many women and people of color actually OWN sports franchises and profit from them as majority stakeholders before we give credit to a more enlightened plantation's profiteering being declared kinder and gentler than another more arrested and reactionary one, shall we?
+1 # David Starr 2018-12-27 09:25
It's great to see athletes like Lebron James concentrating on social and political issues. NFL owners, e.g., say it's none of their business to do so. But it is.

Social issues and politics have a major impact on all of us, one way or another; athletes included. So it helps to develop a social and political consciousness to not only be aware of what's going on, but to also make real change.