NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly encouraged NBA players to speak out on social issues, to use their voice and platform to try to make a difference.
The NFL… not quite as encouraging.
In the third episode of “The Shop” on HBO — a sports and culture conversation produced and staring LeBron James — the NBA’s biggest name ripped NFL owners talking to Los Angeles Rams’ star running back Todd Gurley.
“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 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…. The difference between the NBA and the NFL: the NBA [cares] what we believe we 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.”
“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, non-violent way, then he’s absolutely okay with it.”
There are a lot of old white men who own NBA teams, too, but the power dynamic between star players and owners in the NBA is very different from the NFL — and NBA players have seized on this power. The NBA has always been a star-driven league, and there is a limited supply of elite those stars, which gives them leverage and power. LeBron James has been at the forefront of players taking control of that power, and he’s joined by Chris Bosh in this episode, the two of them choosing to team up in Miami to win rings.
That has extended to social issues league-wide. NBA teams have worn “I can’t breathe” T-shirts during warmups, same with other shirts commenting on police violence and racial justice issues. In the NFL, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has sued the league saying he was essentially blackballed because he knelt in protest of police violence during the national anthem.
LeBron and other players also are controlling their brand off the court more as well, not leaving their futures to guys in suits whether they be agents, investment advisors, or general managers.
LeBron created “The Shop” with Maverick Carter, his long-time friend and business partner. Those guys have had a lot of success together with LeBron’s brand and business dealings, particularly his entertainment company. Which produces “The Shop.”
The show airs at various times throughout the next month on HBO, or it can be streamed on HBO’s platforms.