Skip to main content

Odell Beckham Jr. Compares Black Athlete Experience to Being a 'Zoo Animal'

Odell Beckham and LeBron James discussed what it's like to be a black athlete and the perceptions that come with it.

LeBron James and Odell Beckham discussed how African American athletes are perceived differently for the same actions as their white counterparts on James's show, The Shop, which debuted on HBO Tuesday night.

In the episode, James appears alongside his business partner, Maverick Carter, in a barbershop joined by Beckham, Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, among others.

As James began a discussion surrounding the burden that African Americans have as both athletes and hip-hop artists to reach great heights, he mentions that maintaining a positive public profile is doubly challenging for black athletes in comparison to white athletes.

Beckham expressed his agreement with the sentiment, explaining a recent situation in which a fan attempted to take a picture of the New York Giants star receiver, which he declined.

"I really feel like a zoo animal," Beckham said. "Like that's where life's gone for me. You know, you used to take your kids to the zoo and we used to be like, You know, I want to see the lions or let's go see the lions! And you go out there, and the lions are laid out. You know what I mean? And it's like, Why aren't they doing lion stuff, you know what I mean? Like, I've got people who call out, Odell! Dance! Like, I'm a show punk, a show monkey or something."

James asserts that even when African American athletes are considered among the best at their craft, "It still ain't enough." Using a hypothetical scenario, he directly compares how him declining a picture with fans would be perceived in comparison to if NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, who are both white, were to decline such requests. 

"I'm talking about the phone is on," James explains. "We're like, ‘Yo, get that f---- phone out of my face. I'm with my family.’ If we're out with our family, and we say that s---, and somebody posts it, and if Aaron Rodgers or one of those guys say that s---, and they post it, somebody's going to be like, ‘Hey you guys should respect Aaron Rodgers.’ "

The Shop, a joint production between HBO Sports and Uninterrupted, features "unscripted conversation and debate" with athletes, and was announced in July.