Nick Saban, LeBron James battle over ‘Shop Talk’ series

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Matthew Speakman

Alabama started a web series entitled “Shop Talk” last week. 

It featured former players Julio Jones, Ryan Anderson and Eddie Jackson, who all play in the NFL now. The three reflected on their time at Alabama. They discussed the hard work it took to get to where they are now and what the current state of the college football player is.

The video seems harmless in the eyes of some. Anderson and Jackson are getting precise haircuts while Jones mostly takes the stage talking about his time at Alabama. Jones is a high-profile first guest and Alabama planned to have many more former players on the series who have reached that level of success.

What was mostly a recruiting tool now has Alabama front and center on the national media cycle, and it’s because one person took minor offense to the series’ lack of originality.

Three-time NBA Champion and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James sent a letter to Alabama concerning the videos, looking to open a discussion over possible copyright infringement. James owns and stars in the web series “Uninterrupted,” which features segments called “The Shop,” where James talks about a number of subjects with friends, teammates and business associates inside a barber shop.

James’ letter did not take any legal action, but rather addressed concerns over the possible copyright infringement as well as concerns with trademarks and intellectual property.

“Your continued exploitation of ‘Shop Talk’ infringes ‘Uninterrupted’s’ copyright, trademark rights and other valuable intellectual property rights in ‘The Shop’ and significantly damages ‘Uninterrupted’s’ commercial prospects for ‘The Shop,'” the letter reads, according to ESPN.

On Wednesday, Alabama football coach Nick Saban addressed this letter. Saban opened up by saying James is a “great player” and showed respect, but also did not back down from the idea that more episodes will occur.

“There’s been at least 20 barbershop-type things I’ve seen on TV,” Saban said. “I didn’t know anybody owned that. I didn’t know he had one. I’m sorry that anybody could offended by something that we were just having fun with. I enjoyed it. And we’re going to continue to do it.”

Later in the evening, James caught wind of these comments. 

After a 112-106 win over the No. 1 team in the eastern conference, the Toronto Raptors, James addressed the dispute between himself and Saban.

“I mean, I think you guys know Nick Saban more than me from a media perspective,” James told reporters in Cleveland on Tuesday night. “You guys know Nick Saban more than I do. That’s exactly what I would think he would say. But I built ‘Uninterrupted’ for a reason, for us athletes to have a platform to be able to speak your mind about whatever we want to talk about.”

James went on to mirror the respect Saban showed for him, but did not back down from his stance. 

“I respect him as a coach, but I’ll be damned if I allow someone to use our platform or try to do the same thing we’re doing and just think it’s OK,” James said.

Alabama is scheduled to air another episode of “Shop Talk” this week, and it looks like Saban will not budge from the episodes continuing, despite possible legal action. Right now, it appears James and Saban are just feeling each other out. Neither wants to back down from their stances despite their mutual respect.

The dialogue will continue no matter what the two say in the media. Two of the most successful and powerful figures in sports have minor drama while their legal teams continue discussions behind closed doors.

Alabama posted the second episode of “Shop Talk” on Wednesday. Julio Jones, Ryan Anderson, Calvin Ridley, Eddie Jackson and Scott Cochran all made appearances.

“The lawyers will figure it out,” James said.