LeBron James apologised "for sure, if I offended anyone" after posting a controversial lyric about "Jewish money" on his Instagram account, which has more than 45 million followers.
"We been getting that Jewish Money, Everything is kosher," James wrote on an IG story Saturday afternoon, quoting from the song ASMR by 21 Savage as he rode in a vehicle wearing a purple Lakers sweatshirt.
Darren Rovell, the former ESPN reporter now with the Action Network, was among those who criticised James Sunday, and the 33-year-old was contrite after the Los Angeles Lakers' 107-99 loss to the Grizzlies Sunday night.
"Apologies, for sure, if I offended anyone," he told ESPN. "That's not why I chose to share that lyric. I always [post lyrics]. That's what I do. I ride in my car, I listen to great music, and that was the byproduct of it. So I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn't through the lens of a lot of people. My apologies. It definitely was not the intent, obviously, to hurt anybody."
According to ESPN, the NBA has no plans to fine James for the message.
Over the weekend, James also made headlines for his comments contrasting the NFL and NBA, saying that NFL owners are "a bunch of old white men" and "they got that slave mentality." James, who has become increasingly vocal about racial and social issues in recent years, made his comments in the latest episode of The Shop, which aired Friday night on HBO.
"In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality," James said in an extended conversation with Maverick Carter, his business partner; Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley; and actor/rapper Ice Cube. "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.' "
He went on to praise NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for having an open mind about social commentary. "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," James said. "As long as we are doing it in a very educational, non violent way, then he's absolutely okay with it."
James isn't the first to compare NFL ownership to slavery. In 2011, Adrian Peterson, then with the Minnesota Vikings, compared the league's labour situation to "modern-day slavery." Such language surfaced again last season, when players across the NFL demonstrated during the national anthem to raise awareness of racial injustice and police brutality.
As owners met last year to discuss how to convert players' actions to activism, Bob McNair, the Houston Texans' late owner, reportedly said, "We can't have the inmates running the prison." Former Texans wide receiver Cecil Shorts replied: "Inmates, slaves and products. That's all we are to the owners and others."
Last summer, after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had required his players to stand for the national anthem, 49ers defensive back Richard Sherman accused Jones of having that "old plantation mentality."
There have been limited demonstrations in the NFL this season, but James pointed out in the interview that the game, whether it's pro basketball or pro football, is the people who play it.
"The players are who make the ship go," he said. "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 about] what we believe [a player] 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."