Sports Stars and Bartenders Are Not Slaves

George Orwell once observed that "we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

Clearly, such are the times in which we now live, considering that it's become necessary to explain why multi-millionaire sports stars are not, in fact, anything close to resembling slaves.

You wouldn't know that to hear some of them speak.  On HBO's The Shop last year, Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors quipped that we shouldn't use the term "owner" to refer to NBA team owners, because it is racially insensitive to the predominantly black players in the league.  Now, at least two teams have "done away with" the term "owner," ostensibly due to the word being a key component of "slave-owner."

It's a move that "could pressure the NFL to follow suit," according to sportswriter Mike Florio.  And why not?  The NFL has clearly shown its desire to virtue-signal its progressive bona fides, and after all, NBA star LeBron James also appeared on The Shop last December to say, "In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality.  And it's like this is my team and you do what the f--- I tell y'all to do.  Or we get rid of y'all..."

For most people, it's immediately striking that men who earn more money and live more lavish lifestyles than most average Americans could ever dream of would believe themselves to be the oppressed victims of the teams that employ them or the culture that adores them.  But it's difficult to shake the feeling that there is something deeper going on here, which drives right to the heart of the current ideological debate in American politics.

We should be clear that this is not about race at all.  Race is a red herring.  This is an assault on the concept of private ownership of property.

The problem with slavery is that people were once owned as slaves.  That is the most fundamental requirement for one to be considered a slave.  The free men of the NBA and the NFL endure no such immoral arrangement.  They all willingly perform their "work" in exchange for their ample salaries.  To avoid the risk of papering over just how "ample" those salaries are, consider that the league minimum for an NBA player is an annual $490K, and the league minimum for an NFL player is $450K.

Let's take a moment to put this in perspective.  The average household income in the United States is roughly $62K annually.  If you work as a securities compliance examiner, the federal government's highest paid employee, you are likely incredibly educated and skilled and earning, on average, $181K per year.  The annual salary of the president of the United States is $400K, lower than either league's minimum salary.

To put it bluntly, NFL and NBA players, freely negotiating their contracts, could be considered in league with the nefarious top 1% of income-earners — a far cry from the trials and tribulations of an oppressed "slave."

We free-market conservatives, generally, do not begrudge sports stars their success.  However, we recognize that the only reason they can enjoy such success is because they are able to willingly engage in contract negotiations, in a free and competitive market, to maintain earnings commensurate with their market value.  These salaries are paid by owners who, likewise, enjoy rights of consent to freely negotiate business contracts and to be free from outside coercion. 

With that in mind, consider, again, the language that LeBron James used in referring to NFL team owners.  How is this different from any other arrangement where an employer pays an employee?  This is the nature of the dual rights of individuals conducting business in a free-market arrangement.  Just as the football player has the right to choose to either work or not work for his employer for an agreed upon wage and opportunity, the owner of a company also has fundamental rights to consent and to be free from coercion.

Serving as proof that the left simply cannot grasp this simplest of natural concepts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently declared that working as a bartender, subsisting on the earning of tips, is tantamount to "indentured servitude." 

The term "indentured servant" is not precisely synonymous with "slave."  But I certainly don't expect her to understand the nuanced difference, and as indentured servants were often seen as property throughout history, as slaves were, we can safely assume that she is suggestively offering that bartenders are like slaves, just as LeBron James has suggested that NFL players are like slaves.

What we have here, in these loose and laughable comparisons between free workers and slaves, is a manifestation of twenty-first-century Marxism.  The workers, however menially or lavishly paid, are slaves to the greedy capitalists who seek only to use their labor to attain profit.  And what they seek are policies that rob business owners of their right to consent, which is the most crucial element of liberty, and the lack of which is the most crucial element of slavery.

Nothing could be more distant from the American idea.  LeBron James and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though incredibly different people, are symptoms of the same disease of Marxist immorality that threatens to destroy the most fundamental feature of the American experiment.

All Americans have a right to individual liberty and property.  If this means nothing else, it means that all individuals have the freedom to choose how they apply their skills and value for their own benefit and the benefit of others, to be free from outside coercion, and to succeed or fail in the pursuit of happiness within the confines of that timelessly moral formula.

Sports stars and bartenders, like all other Americans, undoubtedly have those rights.  Only a fool would compare them to slaves.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Image: Dimitri Rodriguez via Flickr.