Last night LeBron James compared NFL owners to slavemasters further cementing his status as the dumbest man in athletics who has ever been taken seriously as smart by woke sports media obsessed with pretending a man with a high school education who has never made an intelligent statement unrelated to basketball is somehow the Albert Einstein of our era.
What’s most remarkable about the commentary is that it occurred on a taped television show airing on HBO meaning LeBron and his posse viewed this footage and considered it to be worthy of airing on television. Again, this wasn’t an offhanded comment uttered in jest in a locker room after a game, it was taped footage that was chosen out of hours of commentary to be featured on a television show.
Here is exactly what was said: “In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams, and they got that slave mentality. And it’s like, ‘This is my team. You do what the fuck 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.”
The comments are so dumb and so uneducated it’s amazing that anyone can take them seriously.
But many in our modern day WokeCenter media will take them seriously so let’s unpack this stupidity once and for all.
First, every NFL and NBA player, regardless of race, is being paid, on average, millions of dollars to play a game. If they don’t desire to play that game for millions of dollars, they are welcome to leave and find another job.
I’m going to write this in all caps because it’s important: NO PAYING JOB IS SIMILAR TO SLAVERY.
Any comparison at all of a modern day job to slavery, other than for comedic affect via outrageous hyperbole, is so absurd and ridiculous that it doesn’t merit the speaker ever being given serious attention any longer.
Second, all these quotes do is demonstrate how out of touch modern day pro athletes are with the real world. When LeBron says this, ‘This is my team. You do what the fuck I tell y’all to do or we get rid of y’all.’ and suggests that is evidence of a slave owner mentality, guess what, THAT’S WHAT ALL BOSSES SAY TO THEIR EMPLOYEES!
Every single employee in America, which is what pro athletes are, employees, do what the fuck their bosses say or they get fired!
That’s the very essence of labor and employment.
Anyone who has ever had a job understands this. Only someone like LeBron, or other pro athletes like him, who have never had a real job in this world thinks being told what to do by a team owner or coach is anything like slavery. The very essence of work in a capitalistic society is this, someone tells you what to do and you do it. In exchange for this, you receive money.
LeBron claims he wants to lift up young black kids in America, but the message he’s sending with quotes like these is the exact wrong one. He’s telling them not to be good employees. What young kids of all races need to be taught is the opposite, if you want to get ahead, do a good job and make your bosses happy. Maybe one day that will allow you to be the boss. And if you do a good job as a boss maybe one day you will be able to become an owner too. That’s what everyone in America should aspire to, becoming the owner instead of the labor.
That’s why I constantly say — “Think like an owner not like an employee.”
LeBron and his ilk are in a unique position that a tiny percentage of entertainers ever achieve — they are being paid millions and millions of dollars for their labor, so much so that one day they might be able to ascend to ownership. But this isn’t how most people become team owners in this country.
Most of the time laboring for someone else doesn’t make you a billionaire.
Hell, it isn’t even how most people become wealthy in this country.
Most of the time you can only become a billionaire — or extremely wealthy — if many other people labor on your behalf. Most people become team owners — or attain extreme wealth — by creating a business or taking over a business when it’s very young. (Granted some people win the genetic lottery, like LeBron’s kids, and are born the children of the extremely wealthy).
LeBron is actually a really bad role model for anyone interested in business because the lesson he’s teaching is this: be born as the greatest natural athlete in the history of America and then get paid a ton of money by someone else because you’re good in sports. That’s great, LeBron, but what if I’m 5’8″ and can’t jump? Has LeBron taught those kids anything?
Of course not.
Furthermore, his statement doesn’t even make sense even if you ignore the stupidity of the slavery analogy: the NFL would be fine without Todd Gurley or Odell Beckham, Jr. The league would only suffer if about twenty of the top quarterbacks, most of whom happen to be white, suddenly left the sport and went on strike. Quarterback talent is truly rare and the league suffers when top quarterbacks aren’t in the game, but almost every other player at every other position really doesn’t matter that much.
(This also points out further the absurdity of LeBron’s analogy too. Are the white players slaves of white owners too or just the black players?)
LeBron isn’t even right about NFL players. Almost all NFL players are easily replaceable. It’s why the league is such a good business, because one player being out doesn’t impact the league very much at all. LeVeon Bell, one of the most successful running backs of his era, set out this year on a contract dispute and his replacement, making a fraction of the salary he turned down, went to the pro bowl and the Pittsburgh Steeler offense was even better than it was last year. Odell Beckham, Jr. didn’t play for most of last season and he’s missing this third straight game this week and do you know what happened? Nothing. The league was fine, it went humming right along.
But if LeBron truly believed the players control the league, guess what, they could all sit out on strike because they have a union to negotiate on their behalf. NFL players and NBA players all collectively bargain their working conditions and pay with the owners. Hell, if NBA or NFL players don’t like the deal they are getting they could truly become owners and start their own leagues. No one is requiring them to play in those leagues. But they haven’t done that, have they? Most players are content with playing in these leagues as employees because, newsflash, they make far more money as athletes than they could make doing anything else in the world.
Furthermore, did slaves have unions to negotiate with plantation owners on their behalf? Did I miss that part of history? Also, if LeBron, or any other player, doesn’t like an owner he can become a free agent and sell his talents to the highest bidder. Did slaves have free agency? Did I miss the part of Roots where Kunta Kinte traveled around on private jets to different plantations to see who would pay him the most to pick cotton? Did LeBron himself have to take the underground railroad when he left Miami via free agency for freedom in Cleveland?
Third, LeBron and many other players like him really don’t even understand the business they’re in. They aren’t paid by the owners, they’re paid by the fans, who pay the owners and players by consuming the product they produce. The players and owners are actually in a partnership and the success of that entire partnership is determined by how many fans choose to consume their product.
Again, owners and players are partners in all modern day leagues. That’s why player protests are so mind-numbingly stupid, you are just hurting yourself when you alienate any of your audience.
The owner and the plantation isn’t even a good business analogy for what pro sports does today. On a plantation an owner produced a raw product — cotton, rice, whatever was raised — that was then sold to another buyer to eventually manufacture goods.
If you wanted to adopt a plantation analogy to the modern day sports business it would be like if the owner and the slaves/players both sold tickets to the plantation and everyone showed up to watch the players pick cotton. And owners and the slaves/players both worked together to ensure they maximized revenue so they could all make the most possible money. (This, of course, would require that cotton picking was an actual sport as opposed to a harmless adjective that a man gets fired for using if he’s employed to call NBA games.)
Which means, you know, this slavery analogy is broken on a historical level, but it also doesn’t even apply in a rudimentary business context either.
The point is — FANS PAY PLAYER SALARIES.
If fans aren’t interested in watching the players the NBA becomes the WNBA.
So when you make comments like these you alienate the people who are making you millionaires, the fans who are spending their hard earned dollars to take their kids and families and sit high up in the rafters of your arenas and stadiums. If players were more sophisticated about understanding the business, they’d understand that comments like these undercut the entire league.
Fourth, LeBron didn’t even criticize his own league’s ownership, he criticized another sports league he doesn’t play in. This is an attack by the woke NBA on the NFL, which is far more popular than the NBA. Yet do NBA players really have that many rights NFL players don’t have? I don’t see it. NBA players have to stand for the national anthem, NFL players don’t. I mean, NBA talent is rarer, which means top NBA players make more money — the NBA has 1/3rd as many players as the NFL — but the NFL is responsible for creating more black millionaires than any business ever created in the history of America.
Far from being slavemasters, the NFL is the greatest wealth creator for black Americans of any business ever made in world history. If anything, black Americans need more businesses like the NFL, not less. The NFL is the ultimate meritocracy in this country, it pays the best players regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Far from being an example of racism in America, it’s what all American business should aspire to be like, a company that only employs the best, and pays the best incredibly well.
Fifth, if anyone is a slave master in the modern day sports marketplace, it’s LeBron. His posse has recently boasted about his billion dollar lifetime contract with Nike. Do you know what that billion dollars going to LeBron is built upon? Virtual slave labor in Indonesia where his high-priced shoes are made.
What does it cost Nike to make a pair of LeBron’s shoes? Reports are that the latest Air Jordan’s total cost is around $16.25 — it costs $10.75 for materials, $2.43 for labor, overhead is $2.10, and factory profit is at $0.97. The most recent LeBron shoe costs $175 on FootLocker’s website. Assuming costs are roughly the same for those shoes this means the potential profit built into one of these shoes, profit that goes to Nike, LeBron, and the eventual retailers, is nearly $160.
How can Nike make that much money on a pair of shoes?
By making the shoes overseas and paying workers an average of $3 a day.
Yep, you read that right, the average person making LeBron’s shoe is being paid .25 cents an hour to work a 12 hour day in an overseas Nike factory.
Since I’m a capitalist who believes in making as much money as you possibly can, I don’t begrudge Nike (and LeBron) for taking advantage of virtual slave labor wages to produce its shoes overseas — that’s even though the average Indonesian Nike worker makes 1/76th of what an American factory worker would make doing the same job.
But if LeBron’s going to accuse team owners — who are paying their employees hundreds of millions of dollars a year to play a game — of being slave owners, shouldn’t he have to answer for why he doesn’t pay the makers of his own shoes better? Has LeBron ever traveled to Indonesia and walked through the huts — our own modern day slave labor camps if you want to truly analogize modern day voluntary employees to slaves — to see how they live? Has LeBron Woke James ever asked Nike why his shoes can’t be manufactured by Americans in America? Has he ever offered to take less than a billion dollars in exchange for a factory to be opened in inner-city Akron to employ poor black kids who otherwise can’t find jobs?
Of course not.
LeBron is behaving exactly like the old white men he’s criticizing, except worse. At least those old white men are employing Americans and paying them very high salaries. LeBron — via Nike — is taking a billion dollars in profit skimmed off the hard work of poor factory workers in Asia so he can skim more profits off hard working Americans whose kids beg them to buy LeBron’s insanely overpriced shoe so he can pocket more money. And he isn’t employing Americans to do any of this.
LeBron is the slavemaster in this equation and his plantation is in Indonesia, a country he’s probably never even bothered to visit.
Now, again, this is global capitalism — and global capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than anything in world history — so I don’t begrudge LeBron his money, but don’t you think LeBron should have to answer questions about this if he’s going to call American team owners slave masters?
Sixth, imagine the reaction if an NBA or NFL owner responded to LeBron’s comments by saying, “Our league is made up of mostly uneducated black men and they sometimes make dumb comments and this is just another example of that.”
The owner might well be forced to sell the team.
I’m not even joking. Don’t you remember the insane overreaction when Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said they couldn’t let the inmates run the prison? This would be that times a thousand.
It would also be a dumb comment for an owner to make even though it would be objectively true in the NBA. The NBA is, in fact, made up of mostly uneducated black men. But attaching someone’s decision to their race, as LeBron did when he referenced the race and age of the NFL owners is, wait for it, RACIST!
Yet most in the woke sports media will give LeBron a pass and would crucify an owner who responded in kind.
Worst of all, the inflammatory nature of the owner’s comment responding to the inflammatory nature of LeBron’s comment would just further create more division in this country.
And none of it would be productive.
That’s why it’s so disappointing to me that LeBron’s posse decided to use this taped comment as commentary they wanted to feature on their show. Again, this wasn’t an off the cuff comment made in a locker room, this was something, f-bomb and all, that LeBron’s posse chose from the hours and hours of footage they’d taped to share with the country. They thought the wokeness of LeBron’s comments — comparing NFL owners to slave masters — would advance the national discourse.
Which is why I think the ultimate lesson of LeBron’s comments is this: we have to stop treating celebrities as authorities on any subject in this country. It used to be when actors or actresses stood up at the Oscars and made political statements everyone rolled their eyes because we all knew they weren’t that informed about the issues they wanted to preach to us about and we didn’t need celebrities to lead our national discourse on complex issues.
Now we treat actor and athlete political opinions as worthy of serious contemplation and we’ve all bowed down to the altar of celebrity, including the election of Donald Trump as president. We have serious issues in this country and most celebrities aren’t capable of talking about them in a serious way. They aren’t helping things get better or making our national discourse smarter, they’re actually making things worse, dumbing down our national debates.
The ultimate truth of the matter is this: when LeBron makes comments like these he really should just shut up and dribble.