NBA star LeBron James issued some of the strongest criticism yet of NFL team owners from a professional athlete, accusing the league’s owners of holding on to a “slave mentality” towards their players, many of whom are African Americans.
In Friday’s episode of “The Shop” on HBO, James accuses white NFL team owners of attempting to prevent their players from expressing themselves politically.
“In the NFL they just got a bunch of old, white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality,” James says in 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 Los Angeles Lakers star and four-time NBA MVP went on to praise his league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, for Silver’s largely supportive stance towards political outreach efforts undertaken by basketball players.
“I’m so appreciative, in our league, our commissioner,” he continued. “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 OK with it.”
James then said that the difference between the two leagues centered around the NFL’s lack of interest in a player’s contributions off the field.
“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 says.
The NFL battled controversy this year over how the league has responded to protests against police brutality by many players, which have largely occurred in the form of players taking a knee during performances of the national anthem.
Many critics of the protests, including President Trump, have argued that NFL players are disrespecting the American flag by choosing to take a knee during the song’s performance.