James and NFL star Todd Gurley talked protests within their respective leagues, and the differing responses from team and league leadership.
A new episode of LeBron James's The Shop on HBO aired Friday night. James and Maverick Carter were joined by Mary J. Blige, Lena Waithe, Nas, Jimmy Kimmel, Rams running back Todd Gurley, former NBA All-Star Chris Bosh and rapper Ice Cube.
During the episode, Carter asked Gurley about the protests over social injustice that NFL players initiated by taking a knee during the national anthem a few years ago. Carter asked Gurley why he thinks the protests have become less prominent this season, which led to an interesting discussion about race, protests, power and the differences between the NFL and NBA.
After acknowledging that players have to consider their future careers–and financial reprecussions–when protesting, Gurley talked about the sensitivity of the subject.
"It's definitely, it's a touchy subject. And some guys feel some type of way, some guys don't," Gurley said. "And some guys honestly could give a f--- about how somebody else feels. But, you know, you don't want to be that type of teammate or that type of guy as well too."
Carter then asked why some NFL owners feel so strongly about their players protesting on the field. James attributed the response to a desire for "control."
"They’re a whole different era," Ice Cube added, referring to NFL owners.
Following Ice Cube's response, James critized NFL owners before praising NBA commissioner Adam Silver for how he handles his players' desires to protest or speak out.
“In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality," James said. "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. I’m so appreciative in our league of our commissioner. He doesn’t mind us having the feeling like to be able to have a real feeling and be able to express that. It doesn’t even matter if Adam [Silver] agrees with what we are saying, he at least wants to hear us out. And as long as we are doing it in a very educational, non-violent way. Then he’s absolutely ok with it."
James continued: "Because at the end of the day the players are who make the ship go. We make it go. Every Sunday without Todd Gurley and without Odell Beckham Jr. you know without those players, those guys, there is no football. And it’s the same in the NBA. There are certain players and certain teams and things of that nature. You’re not disrespecting the Rams or the Lakers or whatever the case may be. I am very educated about what I believe in and I’m not doing it in a violent way. I’m not knocking on your door saying, ‘Listen, I’m kneeling today and if you don’t kneel with me, I’ll knock you the f--- out.’ But you know people go crazy when things are done outside the box. People don’t know how to react.”
James is a vocal activist and philanthropist, in addition to being one of the NBA's biggest stars. The LeBron James Family Foundation opened the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, this summer for at-risk children in James's hometown. The school offers under-served children, and their families, resources to help them succeed. James's school also promises its students full tuition to the University of Akron upon completion.