In an interview with TMZ Sports, Gates suggested that James' comments were off base since NFL players make a good living playing a game:
"I don't know all the owners—I know my owner. And, my relationship with my owner has been phenomenal," Gates said. "And, it's sports. You know what I mean? You get paid to play. ... We all know what we sign up for."
Per Ben Golliver of the Washington Post, LeBron discussed his feelings on NFL ownership on the Dec. 21 episode of The Shop on HBO:
James mentioned his belief that NFL owners have a "slave mentality" since they are willing to cut ties with players if they don't act or play a certain way.
Gates did acknowledge that he hopes NFL players eventually get guaranteed contracts similar to those of NBA players, but he also expressed gratitude for what the league has given him: "A lot of us make a really good living, man, being able to support our families at the same time. So, it is what it is."
The 38-year-old Gates is one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, and he has spent his entire, 16-year NFL career with the Chargers franchise.
According to Spotrac, Gates' career earnings are nearly $71 million in total cash. Meanwhile, James has made almost $270 million during his NBA career, including close to $69 million over the past two seasons combined.
Gates seems content with how his career has gone, but there is no question that the earning potential in the NBA dwarfs that of the NFL.