Lebron James is producing a three part documentary series on the changing role of athletes in the current political environment. The show, Shut up and Dribble, will appear on Showtime and takes its name from conservative pundit Laura Ingraham’s remarks to James after he voiced support for the players of the Golden State Warriors who declined an invitation to the White House after the 2018 finals. From what I have read, the series will focus on how the NBA has become an incubator for many of its top athletes to grow their brands beyond the court, becoming powerful enterprises in business, entertainment and fashion. I was speaking to former NBA player and coach, Earl Watson about this last week, and he takes pride in being part of a league where the players are the brand rather than the owners or the league itself. He believes that the emergence of social media has accelerated the shift in power. Watson also believes the NFL’s handling of the anthem controversy would never happen in the NBA where players are encouraged to speak their mind, “We don’t have to take a knee because our fans already know where we stand on key issues”. The spectacle of athletic genius, politics, and fashion on full display 24/7 on social media has made the NBA the most popular professional sports league in the world. Many fans believe that Lebron’s move to LA was more about his career after basketball and I’m looking forward to seeing what he is going to do next.
The NFL markets its brand as well as any enterprise in the world. I heard a comedian once say that the NFL is so popular, it has its own day. NFL football is huge. Each NFL franchise brings in approximately $400M a year in revenue; almost double the annual revenue of NBA teams and 2 ½ times as much as MLB clubs.