Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

If you were looking for a fine example of business leadership, I'm not sure the NFL would be your number one pick.

Somehow, the league has managed to not manage so many issues, from concussions to player pensions to domestic violence to even finding someone to sing at the Super Bowl.

Many fear they've known why this might be.

LeBron James, though, decided to come out and say it during an episode of HBO's The Shop

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. You do what the (expletive) I tell y'all to do. Or we get rid of y'all.'

Of course, some will immediately burp that slaves never made the millions of dollars that some NFL players make.

But anyone seeing the manifest and deliberate exclusion of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for protesting against police violence against blacks -- and the startling coincidence of his former teammate and protest supporter Eric Reid undergoing more 'random' drug tests than is statistically conceivable -- might wonder just what NFL owners consider good management.

Theirs is, indeed, an attitude of use 'em up, wear 'em out and toss 'em away.

So many NFL contracts aren't guaranteed. Get injured and they throw you on the pyre.

Indeed, so much of NFL team's management style revolves around the owner's way or the highway.

Of course, it's one way to run a business. But when you hear reports of former Houston Texans owner Bob McNair telling his fellow owners: "We can't have the inmates running the prison," it's easy to get the feeling that too many NFL owners are simply antediluvian in both their racial politics and their management style.

James contrasted this creaky, retrograde attitude with that of the NBA: 

I'm so appreciative in our league of our commissioner. He doesn't mind us having .. a real feeling and be able to express that. It doesn't even matter if Adam [Silver] agrees with what we are saying, he at least wants to hear us out. And as long as we are doing it in a very educational, non-violent way, then he's absolutely OK with it.

It's surely no coincidence that as the NFL struggles against the social tide, the NBA flourishes worldwide.

There's something quite risible about the NFL claiming it crowns "world champions" in a sport that doesn't interest at least 95 percent of the world.

Moreover, as demographic change makes America a different place and as parents increasingly keep their kids away from football because of its terrible injury record, the NFL seems to stand there and believe it'll soon be the 1950's all over again. 

Why, this is the league that forbade players from taking off their helmets to celebrate.

In fact, this is the league that, until this season, tried to prevent players from celebrating at all.

Could it be because the faces didn't somehow fit the image the NFL wanted to project?

The NBA, James said, believes in a player's potential. In the NFL, "it's what can you do for me this Sunday or this Monday or this Thursday. And if you ain't it, we moving on."

There's a slight romance in his view, but not too much.

While NBA coaches have freely spoken out on social issues that are dear to them and to their players, their NFL counterparts continue with their tired clichés of football as war and mutter the same predictable anodyne twaddle from one week to the next.

Moreover, would you ever see a disagreement in the NFL anything like the current one between Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and one of his star players, Harrison Barnes.

Cuban, a voluble type, offered that European players are far more basketball-savvy than their American counterparts: 

They just learn how to play basketball while our guys learn how to taunt and put together mixtapes.

Barnes, who fancies himself one day as a congressman, felt perfectly free to respond:

As a statement, I don't agree with it. As a joke, I don't find it funny. And frankly I think it doesn't reflect what makes the NBA special.

For even better measure, he added: 

The great thing about our league is that players come from all over the world. We are raised in every background imaginable and bring unique perspectives because of it. We should celebrate that.

Of course, race plays an enormous role in sports. Most players are black. Most owners are white. The tensions between the two in the NFL are quite open, yet much is left unsaid.

But take James's words in a literal management context, and you'll know that there are many business leaders who still believe in the old style of do-as-I-say and many who understand that to have better employees and a better company, you need to adapt your attitude toward understanding those employees better.

So many of today's CEOs are being forced to take a stand on social issues. Some, because their employees demand it. Some, because they personally feel so strongly about the world's troubling turns.

It's reasonable to wonder whether, in 30 or 40 years' time, the NFL will even exist anymore.

If that happens, part of the reason will be banal mismanagement. 

After all, the NFL seems -- like so many who reside near Wall Street -- to believe that maximizing today's dollars is all that matters.

The NBA is a little wiser than that. 

Published on: Dec 23, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.