LeBron James is never one to keep quiet about his views on social issues and racial equality. In that way, he is indisputably superior to Michael Jordan who throughout his career shied away from anything remotely controversial–unless it was gambling.
In MJ’s defense, it was a different time, but that is a pretty light defense. Most recently, James has created headlines with a quote from his Showtime talk show called, “The Shop.” The show is set in a Barbershop and features James and a variety of celebrities and athletes discussing sports, politics and more.
In the episode in question, which also included Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley and hip-hop icon, actor and director Ice Cube, James criticized the NFL owners. He said, “in the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams, and they got that slave mentality,” James said during the episode. “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 players are who make the ship go. 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.
James added, “the difference between the NBA and the NFL, the NBA is what we believe he [a player] can be. The potential. In the NFL, it’s like what can you do for me this Sunday, or this Monday or this Thursday, and if you ain’t it, we moving on.”
Gurley chimed in, “That what I say: Your best ability is availability. … It’s really week by week. It ain’t no year by year.”
James also went on to compliment the NBA’s commissioner Adam Silver, who is widely considered the most progressive and liberal of all heads of major teams sports leagues.
“I’m so appreciative in our league of our commissioner. 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, nonviolent way, then he’s absolutely OK with it.”
NFL owners have long been criticized for racial injustices. The Art Rooney Rule had to be instituted to ensure people of color were getting an opportunity at head coaching positions. The Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder refuses to change the blatantly racist nickname of his football team, participates in the continued blackballing of Colin Kaepernick and does other unsavory things.
Houston Texans owner Robert McNair has also made racially inappropriate comments, and the list goes on and on. NFL players mostly operate on non-guaranteed contracts. That’s why signing bonuses are such a big deal because it’s the piece of the contract that is most secure for the player. Players wear helmets in the league, so it is tougher to identify individuals, which is simply a product of the physicality of the sport. However, the NFL has consistently fought against players who attempt to establish a sense of individuality.
There does appear to be a sense of product and ownership as it relates to the player-to-team owner dynamic. Because of this seemingly endless list of evidence supporting James’ point, can we disagree with him? Perhaps.
Not ALL NFL owners operate the same, so just as whites must be careful in grouping all African-Americans or people of color into one stereotyped group, we as African-Americans must resist making blanket statements. That said, James’ argument still has some validity. What do you think? Let me know by voting in the poll.