LeBron James says NFL owners have 'slave mentality' when it comes to players

LeBron James seems happy he chose basketball for his career. (Getty Images)
LeBron James seems happy he chose basketball for his career. (Getty Images)

LeBron James had nothing but scathing critiques for the National Football League during an episode of his show “The Shop” on HBO, in which the Los Angeles Lakers superstar contrasted the NFL and NBA’s treatment of their respective players.

In his latest comment addressing what’s going on beyond the basketball court, James compared the NFL’s owners attitude toward their players to slave ownership while praising NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s handling of social issues in his league.

LeBron James blasts the NFL’s ‘slave mentality’

Speaking with Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, rapper Ice Cube and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter, James went right at the NFL when the subject of the league’s social justice protests during the national anthem was raised.

Some of James’ quotes, via The Washington Post:

“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.’”

“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.”

Gurley could be visibly seen nodding along with James during the statement.

James would later go on to say that he doesn’t believe the NFL doesn’t properly value or even care about its 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 isn’t the first person to bring up slavery with the NFL

While this isn’t the first time the NFL’s treatment of its players has been compared to slavery, James is certainly the loudest voice to make the comparison.

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had a “plantation mentality” in July due to Jones’ repeated insistence that players stand for the national anthem. Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Michael Bennett likened that same insistence to the infamous Dred Scott case. Former NFL receiver Cecil Shorts III tweeted that the players were “inmates, slaves and products” to the owners after former Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said that the league couldn’t “have the inmates running the prison” with regard to the anthem issue. Panthers safety Eric Reid likened the NFL’s suppression of its players’ activism as the latest example of a dynamic going back to slavery.

There are other examples, but suffice to say, the NFL has been dealing with bad optics from owners publicly discouraging, and trying to outright ban, protests during the anthem for years now. Compare that to the NBA where players have been free, and sometimes even encouraged, to use their forum for social activism.

James’ words on Friday are just the latest example of that agency.

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