LeBron James may not be too popular with America at large, but most athletes still like him just fine. In part, that's because they're a brotherhood -- they understand his point of view and why he may have felt the need to air a free-agency announcement special on national TV. More generally, though, it's just not in their interest to talk crap about people they may have to work with or see socially on a regular basis. They get along for the same reasons you don't yell at the dude who always talks about his workout routine in the office. Why create bad blood when it's not necessary?
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Most athletes have not been vocal in their support of James. However, in a preseason NFL game last Friday, Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson caught a touchdown against the Browns in Cleveland. As you can see in the video above, he celebrated by mimicking LeBron's famous pregame chalk toss. After the game, he explained his celebration. From Dave Birkett for the Detroit Free Press (via EOB):
"It was a LeBron thing," Burleson explained today. "I wasn't going to do it. See, I had a plan. I had two celebrations planned. I was going to catch the ball, get up, do the shot by (Michael) Jordan (against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 NBA playoffs) and the three pumps. I've got it all down. I've seen it like a million times.
"But then when I got in the end zone, I was waiting for the ref, and then when I looked at the crowd, the Dawg Pound went crazy. They were cussing me out, talking about my momma, so I was like forget that. Where's the powder at. Voom."
Wow, Burleson really hates Cleveland. I guess he didn't think Genesis deserved their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2010.
OK, so maybe Burleson didn't celebrate in this perversely anti-Cleve way just because of LeBron. Still, it was a stupid idea, and for much the same reasons that few players have come out in support of LeBron in the press. At 30 years old, Burleson is likely to spend a few more years in the NFL. What happens if he's a free agent and Cleveland needs receiver help? Will they remember the time he angered their fan base in a meaningless game. Is he just a big jerk who probably shouldn't ever be given a job in the sport again?
A professional sports league is an unconvential work environment. But the employees have to deal with the same kind of relationships as people who work in a white-collar bullpen.