NFL tight end Antonio Gates is headed to Canton someday soon (the man has 116 touchdowns through 16 seasons), so he's not among the mass of players who are out of the league before year four. Perhaps that's why he couldn't concur with LeBron James' comments—on HBO's The Shop the Friday before Christmas—about NFL owners having a "slave mentality." Or, Gates, who TMZ caught up with on the sidewalk in Beverly Hills on Thursday (video above), didn't want to talk junk about the man who signs his checks.
"In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality," James told Todd Gurley, Maverick Carter, and Ice Cube on Friday's airing. "And it’s like, 'This is my team. You do what the fuck I tell y’all to do. Or we get rid of y’all.'"
Gates doesn't see it that way. However, he did offer a caveat that he could only speak for his owner. Through all 16 seasons of his career with the Chargers, Dean Spanos was the guy signing Gates' checks.
"I don't know all the owners—I know my owner," Gates says in the video above. "And, my relationship with my owner has been phenomenal. And, it's sports. You know what I mean? You get paid to play...for your service."
After TMZ's usually obnoxious man-on-the-street brought up an astoundingly nuanced point about how the NBA has guaranteed contracts, and so does Major League Baseball, so maybe NFL owners think of their players as more expendable because they are, at least in terms of their legal rights of employment.
"Yeah, of course," Gates agreed. "It is what it is. I mean, we all know what we sign up for." Gates said he hopes one day contracts will be guaranteed for NFL Players (new CBA is coming in 2021!), but players go into an NFL career knowing full well what their body will have to endure. "A lot of us make a really good living, man, being able to support our families at the same time," Gates said. "So, it is what it is."
Through 16 seasons, Gates has earned a little over $40 million in salary and another $30 million in bonuses and contract incentives, per Sportrac data.
He's also going to the Hall of Fame one day as one of the best to ever line up at tight end; He's not one of the many but of the few, which he fully acknowledges.