In an episode of LeBron James’ HBO series The Shop, Odell Beckham, Jr. said he sees discrepancies in how black athletes are treated versus white athletes. He also says he feels “like a zoo animal,” especially out in public.
Beckham shares these views after signing a deal this week, which made him the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.
The show features an informal setting where participants speak their minds on a variety of topics. Tuesday’s debut episode featured prominent individuals such as rapper Snoop Dogg, Candace Parker, Draymond Green, Jon Stewart, Michael Bennett, Jon Stewart, Maverick Carter, Vince Staples, Jerrod Carmichael, and LeBron James, Awful Announcing reported.
During one segment, James and Beckham spoke about what fame is like for them.
Beckham, for instance, complained about a particular incident where he was in a rush and didn’t have time to take a photo with a fan he encountered on the street. After Beckham brushed off the meeting, the fan began slamming the player on social media for acting like “an asshole.”
Remembering the incident prodded Beckham to exclaim that he feels people treat him “like a zoo animal:”
To me, I be feeling like, I tell people this all the time- I really feel like a zoo animal. 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. Like I’m a puppet, you know what I mean? And it’s like to me, that doesn’t feel good, but it’s like, damn, that’s what life became. But, can you ever really detach from that?
At another point in the conversation, James added that he thinks black athletes can never quite be good enough for everyone:
When you’re growing up in sports or hip-hop, whatever the case may be, all you hear is like, I want to be the best. Whoever’s the best, they do it their way, whatever the case may be. And then, when you do it your way, and you win, it still ain’t enough.
It still ain’t enough. And, and, and that’s for us as African Americans because I believe if the greatest quarterback in the world, he’s a white quarterback, if it’s Brady, if it’s Rodgers, if it’s Manning.
And we’re doing the same shit, the same exact shit, I’m talking about the phone is on. We’re like, “Yo, get that fucking phone out of my face. I’m with my family.” If we’re out with our family, and we say that shit, and somebody posts it, and if Aaron Rodgers or one of those guys say that shit and they post it, somebody’s going to be like, “Hey you guys should respect Aaron Rodgers.”
James added that then black athletes are called names when they are rude to fans in public.
However, despite James and Beckham’s seeming assumption that black athletes are more put upon and given less leeway by fans than other celebrities. Nearly every celebrity has stories of times when they could not take the time to stop for fans and then having those fans say or write mean things about those celebrities. It is a common problem for well-known people, and only the most forbearing of people can be nice to every fan at all times. James and Beckham’s experiences are hardly unique only to black athletes.
It is just one of the pitfalls of fame.