NBA players get more respect than NFL players, LeBron James said Friday, calling out team owners in the National Football League for being intolerant to professional athletes who speak out against racial injustice.
A basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, James has become an increasingly outpsoken advocate for professional athletes when it comes to race and politics, Washington Post reported.
“In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality,” James said during the latest episode of his HBO sports series The Shop. “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 made the comments during an interview with business partner Maverick Carter and guest stars Ice Cube and Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams. The Shop is a 30-minute talk show set in a barbershop. James and Carter are executive producers in collaboration with HBO and James’ “Uninterrupted” media company.
The NBA and the NFL have different approaches to player protests.
After San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell instituted guidelines for players during the anthem. NFL owners require players to stand if they are on the field during the national anthem but give them the option to stay in the locker room. In September, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he expected players to stand, but stopped short of making it a requirement.
The NBA cares more about its players, James said. “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 gave NBA Commissioner Adam Silver credit for a positive attitude in the league, Deadline reported.
“I’m so appreciative in our (NBA) league of our commissioner (Adam Silver),” James said on The Shop. “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.”
A lack of diversity in ownership, management and coaching positions persists in all major American sports leagues, Ahiza Garcia reported for CNN Money. Just two NFL teams are owned or co-owned by people of color: Shahid Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kim Pegula of the Buffalo Bills. The NBA has the most people of color who own or co-own teams (three).
James isn’t the first person to ascribe a plantation mentality to NFL owners.
A policy that forces players to stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room represents a plantation mentality, said California civil rights activist and sociology professor emeritus Harry Edwards. NFL owners “are wealthy, entitled and arrogant, and they essentially view their players as property, not human beings with rights guaranteed by the Constitution. … (NFL team) owners are acting like plantation owners, insisting that any act of ‘rebellion’ must be squelched,” Edwards said, according to a report by Glen Martin in Cal Alumni Magazine.
When Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his players must have their “toe on the line” and stand during the anthem, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman described it as an “old plantation mentality,” according to the Bleacher Report.
“Team owners sometimes think and behave like slave owner,” wrote Solomon Jones for Philly.com.
Uninterrupted, the media startup James founded with his business partner Maverick Carter, is being credited with turning the sports business — and traditional ways of delivering news — upside down.
In February, Fox host Laura Ingraham mocked James for “talking politics again,” on Uninterrupted, attacking his intelligence, grammar, and even eligibility to talk about Donald Trump.
“You’re great players,” she said, referring to James and Kevin Durant, “but no one voted for you. Millions of people voted for Trump to be their coach, so keep the political commentary to yourself … shut up and dribble.”
Written by Dana Sanchez