David West fires back at former US Olympian saying athletes are ‘literally the new slaves’ on ESPN show

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Former NBA player David West commented strongly on the idea raised by a former Olympian that “athletes are literally the new slaves” based on their reliance on the contracts they are beholden to.

“It’s almost like the contracts are the new slave chains, right?” Gwen Berry said. “So you have to sign this contract and sign this document and sign this document. It’s like you’re binded to this, and then if you break that, that’s your livelihood, that’s your life.


“So we the new slaves. Athletes are literally the new slaves because we need this. Our families, our friends depend on this contract to eat.”

The remarks made by Berry on the ESPN+ series “Skin in the Game” drew a response from West on social media.

West played 15 NBA seasons, with his last in the 2017-18 campaign for the Golden State Warriors. While he isn’t always active on X (formerly known as Twitter), he does tend to offer his opinion on different topics from time to time. He recently got angry at EuroLeague player Kyle Hines saying that the “NBA is checkers and Europe is chess.”

That’s nothing compared to Berry’s strong remarks, however.

The track and field athlete competed in the hammer throw at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics (which were held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). She has been involved in controversial protests in the past, raising her fist atop the medal stand following the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 2019 Pan American Games, which resulted in her being put on probation by the International Olympic Committee.

She later turned away from the flag during the national anthem at the U.S. Olympic trials in 2021. In 2023, the 34-year-old was suspended from competition for 16 months for anti-doping violations.

Though about totally divergent topics, this is not the first recent exchange involving a U.S. track athlete and those with ties to the NBA.

Last month, sprinter Noah Lyles raised the idea that the winning NBA team is not really a world champion because the competition isn’t decided against a truly international field, as he did by winning three gold medals at the World Athletics Championship.

It drew a response from Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George, who said the recognition is deserved because the NBA is the best league in the world and many of its players come from outside the United States.

The takes by Lyles and George may be worthy of a reasonable debate, unlike the ideas raised by Berry trying to tie professional sports with slavery.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.