New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and several other prominent black celebrities sat down with LeBron James on Tuesday in the new HBO series The Shop. James brought up the double standard for black celebrities when dealing with fans in public.
James argued that white sports figures like Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and Aaron Rodgers are treated differently than black ones. He suggested, for example, that it wouldn’t be acceptable for him to tell a fan taking a picture to “get that f***ing phone out of my face — I’m with my family.”
But James believes people would accept a white athlete’s doing the same thing: “If Aaron Rodgers or one of those guys say that s***, and they post it, somebody’s gonna be like, ‘Hey, you guys should respect Aaron Rodgers.’ They’re gonna say to us, ‘Oh, you guys are f***ing d***heads.’”
As an NFL megastar, Beckham could relate to James’s observation. “To me, I be feeling like — I tell people this all the time — I really feel like a zoo animal,” he said. “Like that’s where life’s gone for me.”
Beckham has 3.7 million Twitter followers, but when he was unable to take a photo with one of them, the fan cursed at him. He compared the reaction to that of a child visiting the zoo in hopes of seeing a ferocious lion: “You go out there and the lions are laid out. … It’s like, ‘Why aren’t they doing lion stuff. …’? Like I’ve got people who call, ‘Odell! Dance!’ Like I’m a show punk, a show monkey or something. Like I’m a puppet, you know what I mean?”
Though Beckham doesn’t like being objectified and harassed, he realizes it’s part of being famous. “It’s like to me, that doesn’t feel good,” he said. “It’s like, damn, that’s what life became, but can you ever really detach from that?”
The Shop airs Tuesdays at 11 p.m. on HBO.
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