LeBron James on “Slave Mentality”

Until I read a blurb in the Washington Post over the weekend, I was not aware that LeBron James hosted a TV show on HBO.  I do not subscribe to HBO and without this mention in the Post, my ignorance would have likely extended forever.  The show is evidently named The Shop and it features a barber shop setting where LeBron and his invited guests sit around and talk about “stuff”.  If I were already subscribed to HBO, I might tune into an episode or two just to see who the invited guests are and what the discussion topics are about.  Having said that, I will not be adding HBO to my cable TV package based on my newly acquired awareness of this programming.

Here is the part of the report in the Post that caught my attention.  They report that LeBron James had this to say in a recent episode of his show:

“In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality.  This is my team.  You do what the f- – – I tell y’all to do, or we get rid of y’all.”

LeBron then went on to praise NBA commish, Adam Silver, for allowing NBA players to have “a real feeling” and to express those real feelings even when Silver does not agree with them.  OK, I get it; LeBron James thinks Adam Silver is a good guy and a lot better person that Roger Goodell.  Moving on…

LeBron James is an adult; moreover, he is an intelligent and articulate adult – – the syntax of the above statement notwithstanding.  In addition, I recognize and appreciate the use of hyperbole regarding many situations.  However, in this case, I believe that LeBron James went too far – – way too far.  Let me explain.

I have a problem with LeBron’s position and it has nothing to do with stereotyping in his description of NFL owners as “old white men”.  Most NFL team owners are exactly that but not all of them.  My problem is his attributing their thoughts to a “slave mentality”.  LeBron does not – because he cannot – read minds.  He has no idea what NFL owners think or if they possess a “slave mentality”.

Slavery was – and remains – an abominable aspect of the human social order.  Attributing aspects of slavery – even the mindset of slave owners which can only be imagined or inferred – is an extrapolation that is improper.  If I were to make some sweeping and damning statement about the mentality of Black NBA basketball players based on my mind-reading skills, I would and should be vilified as a racist.

The NFL is far short of beneficent in the way it deals with its players.  I am perfectly willing to heap scorn upon them for dumb things that the league does.  However please consider:

  • There is a union representing the players.  Slaves did not then and do not now have unions.
  • There is a CBA under which the owners and players do their business.  I have never heard of anything resembling a CBA in a situation where slavery is part of the social order.
  • The CBA makes the NFL owners and players partners in a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  Actual slaves are not partners with their owners.
  • The CBA provides players with something called “free agency”.  Free agency allows players to “take their talents” elsewhere; when slaves in the southern US sates ran away, they were hunted down and returned to their owners. Free agency is the antithesis of slavery.
  • The NFL has made about 10,000 players millionaires in the past 20-25 years.  Few if any slaves in any slave society ever achieve a tenth of that wealth.

While ranting about something related to the NBA – tangentially to be sure – let me comment on an NBA game that was on my TV last week.  The Washington Wizards played the Houston Rockets; both teams had started the season significantly underachieving expectations for them; recently, both teams had shown improvement and the Rockets had made it back to the .500 level for the season.  NBA games in December are usually snooze-fests, but this one looked like it had the potential to be interesting.  Man, was I wrong…?

  • The Wizards gave up 70 points in the first half by standing around on defense as if the game was a rec league contest for men 50 years and older.
  • They seemingly equalized that lack of effort on defense by having everyone without the ball on offense standing around like the statuary in the Roman Pantheon.
  • Meanwhile, the Rockets made the game painfully boring by effecting an offensive game plan that had them attempt 55 shots from 3-point range.  At least in the 3-point shooting contest during All-Star Week, there is a short time limit on that activity – which by itself is boring – but the Rockets did that for all 48 minutes here.

The final score of this hot mess was Rockets 136 and Wizards 118 – – if you care.

Finally, here is the Headline – and the sub-headline – for an article on CBSSports.com from last Saturday:

“Ranking Foles’ most likely landing spots”

“Nick Foles could stay in Philly or the Super Bowl

LII MVP could opt to move on this offseason”

Well, that covers all the possibilities – including his possible decision to retire from the NFL to herd yaks in the highlands of Nepal next year.  Sheesh…

[Aside:  No rant tomorrow.  I will have something posted on Wednesday 26 December.  Merry Christmas/Seasons Greetings to one and all.  Be safe and stay well.]

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports.



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