Sunday, January 17, 2021

LA Lakers Lebron James Slave Comment Is Dead Wrong.

January 13, 2019 by  
Filed under Money/Business, News, Sports

( It is a familiar argument that falls short on every level. The case that I am alluding to is the tendency of Black athletes to equate their status to that of enslaved Africans. Rarely do I encounter an argument that is equal parts disingenuous and historically unsupportable.

Let me be clear on this matter; the Black athlete is not a slave, he is an exploited worker trapped in a Capitalist system. Although Black professional athletes will push back against the following assertion, the truth is that their financial windfall has placed them in a position of indifference regarding the issues of poor and working-class Americans.

Although I understand the Black athletes desire to equate his status with those of their enslaved ancestors, it is nonetheless a significant reach. The latest to make this clunky analogy is none other than LeBron James. James’ statements occurred during the most recent episode of “The Shop.” According to the basketball star,

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.

There is a consensus throughout the nation that there is much to celebrate about LeBron James, I tip my hat to his entrepreneurial endeavors in the educational and entertainment arenas.

Unfortunately, his understanding of Labor History is sparse at best.
If provided the opportunity, I would inform my dear brother that his rush to equate today’s Black athlete with the enslaved athletes that we share has caused him to ignore what should be a recognizable truth. The alluded to fact is that the work conditions and sharing of profits that William Rhoden’s “Million Dollar Slaves” are governed by are similar to the daily realities of American workers, regardless of their Race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Put simply; the American worker is exploited at every turn.

The realization that “Million Dollar Slaves” like LeBron James, Cam Newton, and Aaron Judge are little more than well-paid employees beholden to elites for their pay is nothing new. In many ways, today’s Black athlete is no different from the droves of new immigrants who arrived in this nation around the late 19th Century to toil for elites such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Samuel Gompers, and Henry Ford.

Despite their most fervent attempts to avoid the following harsh reality, Black athletes must realize that there are only two classes in America, workers and the owners who hold disproportionate control over their lives. One of the most shocking realizations that non-elites who manage to access large amounts of capital soon learn, monetary resources alone do not secure a place among elites. Instead of fully ascending to economic heaven, the alluded to individuals exist in an economic purgatory that remains unsettled and presents voluminous issues regarding one’s priorities and loyalties.

Make no mistake about it, the stakes are high for the Black athlete who hails from meager roots, yet understands the need not to bite the elite white hand that feeds him. Maybe I am not giving LeBron James enough credit after all. It could be that he does understand economic matters enough to avoid speaking about class issues and thereby being addressed by elites in an uncommonly brutal manner that would make the treatment afforded former NBA player Craig Hodges look like child’s play. So maybe the crude analogy equating Black athletes to enslaved Africans is a safe play by LeBron James and his contemporaries. History dictates to us that such foolishness is a “safe space” for Black intellectualism, while the raising of issues of economic inequality, class warfare, poverty, and homelessness remains taboo.

Columnist; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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