NBA superstar LeBron James recently invoked slavery to slam NFL team owners, likening the method many NFL owners use to operate their teams to that of slave owners.
What did James say?
Speaking on his HBO show "The Shop," James lamented over the disparity of treatment between players in the NBA and those in the NFL, who he said are viewed as disposable, leading to rampant disrespect.
"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.'"
According to HuffPost, James contrasted NBA commissioner Adam Silver with NFL executives. The Los Angeles Lakers star player praised Silver for allowing NBA players to use their platforms for advocacy, whereas in the NFL players are ridiculed — and even blackballed from the league, as in the case of Colin Kaepernick — for expressing themselves politically.
"It doesn't even matter if Adam agrees with what we're saying," James said. "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 OK with it because at the end of the day it's the players that make the ship go."
James' comments came during a discussion with Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, rapper Ice Cube, and his business partner Maverick Carter.
Later, James further criticized how NFL owners do not cherish the success of individual players, instead only grasping for "short-term results."
"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 said. "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."
Is James the first to deliver such blistering critique?
According to the Washington Post, the NFL has faced "slave" and "prison" comparisons numerous times over the last decade.
The Post explains:
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.
However, James, as one of the world's most popular athletes, is certainly the most high-profile athlete to deliver such a scathing assessment of the NFL.