October 1st, 2010
05:08 PM ET

LeBron James, race and ‘The Decision’


Did you think the hype and fury over NBA superstar LeBron James’ announcement to switch teams was a thing of the past? Think again.

A comment James made during a recent interview with CNN has sparked a fresh round of controversy and recrimination.

First, a quick recap for those who may have somehow missed what happened this summer.

James, arguably the best basketball player in the world, using his rights as a free agent, decided to sign with the Miami Heat rather than continue with the Cleveland Cavaliers. James grew up in nearby Akron, Ohio, and played with the Cavaliers for seven years after coming directly out of high school.

James made the announcement July 8 during a nationally televised special – dubbed “The Decision” – on ESPN. The TV special was roundly criticized in the aftermath and the widely popular James was cast by fans and media as something of a villain – an egotistical athlete more concerned with his brand and marketability than loyalty to his hometown.

James discussed "The Decision” with CNN’s Soledad O’ Brien and an answer to one of her questions has renewed discussion about it.

O’Brien asked James if race played a role in the backlash. “I think so, at times,” James said. “There’s always a race factor.

Maverick Carter, James’ childhood friend and the man who heads his marketing and branding operations, also talked with O’Brien and agreed with James’ assessment.

“It definitely played a role in some of the stuff that came out in the media, things that were written, for sure,” he said.

However, Carter also said, “The execution could have been a little bit better and I take some of the blame for that.”

Overshadowed in the backlash, Carter and James said, was the fact that "The Decision” raised $3 million for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. James donated all the advertising revenue from the TV special to the charity.

“If I have to take heat to give back to kids, I would do it the same way every single time,” James said.

The media world picked up on James’ comments about race during the O’Brien interview. Here’s a quick round-up of some reaction:

“It's like watching a movie. Just when you think it couldn't get any stupider, it gets more stupid.” (Charles Barkley, during an interview with WIP)

“He didn't claim to be a victim of racial persecution, he didn't call for a racial revolution. He simply responded to a question and noted that race is a factor at times. It's a simple, fundamental truth in our society and, in particular, the NBA. As long as the NBA features predominantly black athletes playing for predominantly white owners who are selling their sport to predominantly white ticket buyers, there will be a race factor. It's an ongoing quandary, usually left unsaid.” (J.A. Adande, ESPN.com)

"It's easier to dismiss criticism as the product of a biased mind rather than flirt with the idea that there's something to it. Which isn't to say there aren't some people relying on the basest stereotypes to fuel their hatred of LeBron James. But chalking it all up to that, instead of anything he might have done to provoke censure, is just going to make him more hated. More proof that LeBron James just doesn't get it." (Barry Petchesky, Deadspin)

“With his self-aggrandizing, narcissistic one-hour TV exit – 'The Decision' – LeBron James ruined his public image, not racism. LeBron inflicted more damage to his image Wednesday night when he told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien that race is a factor in the public backlash against him since 'The Decision.' ” (Jason Whitlock, FoxSports)

“I gotta admit I’m a huge Lebron fan ever since his high school days in Akron, but without ANY doubt he shouldn’t have even thought of mentioning race. That's something he should’ve just bs’d with his closest friends about, not with the national media.” (Red Army in a comment on NBA.com)

“Yea, LeBron @KingJames. Everyone hates you because we're all racist. But I'm glad to hear that 'Spoiled Brats' are a race now.” (Theo Madla on Twitter)

What do you think? Did race play a role in the backlash to James’ announcement? Was James simply answering a question? Is it all hype? Let us know in the comments section below.

Watch a trailer from CNN's Soledad O'Brien's next documentary, "Almighty Debt, A Black in America Special."

soundoff (280 Responses)
  1. Joe

    Simply put I wish he wouldn't have brought this up. This issue and the sides that people have taken are so engrained in peoples thought process that you will have his supporters once again protecting his actions regardless of their true perception and his detractors impishly hounding another seemingly stupid move.

    October 2, 2010 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Lulu

      He did not bring it up Joe, Soledad O’ Brien did – LeBron just answered the question. Catch 22 – if he refused to answer we would have assumed his answer was yes. If he said 'not all' we all would know he was lying.

      October 2, 2010 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. Brandon

    “If I have to take heat to give back to kids, I would do it the same way every single time,”

    LeBron still doesn't get it. If you want to help kids, then you make it ABOUT the kids, not about YOU. The real reason you "would do it the same way every single time” is because of the endorsement deals received as a result. There are much easier ways for a person of your stature to give back to kids.

    Plus I still can't get over the fake "man, this is tough" line. My God, James, how much crap can you shovel in one night?

    October 2, 2010 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    Lebron is 100% right, it's all about race! Anybody who thinks otherwise is simply naive or living in fantasy land!

    October 2, 2010 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    Lebron is 100% right, it's all about race! Anybody who thinks otherwise is simply naive or lives in a fantasy!

    October 2, 2010 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. Daniel

    I am so done with blacks playing the 'race card'. Here is a millionaire black, made that way by white season ticket holders, complaining about race. Enough already..we all get it, our forefathers were did terrible things to your forefathers but the key thing here is generations have passed. Every black, brown, yellow and white is given the same opportunity. NOW SHUT THE F-UP AND PUT THE LITTLE ROUND BALL IN THE HOOP!

    October 2, 2010 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. SiCK

    LBJ did not "CHOKE" during last yrs playoffs- His teammate sleepin w/ his mom took a toll on him, and his world felt like it was caving in- Soledad should have never asked him that question from the get go! Racism never played a roll in the "Decision" and Lebron couldnt have cared less abt
    where his decision took place! He's a humble guy....Living in a crazy world!!!

    October 2, 2010 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. Samantha Wallace

    Lets be real the only reason why Lebron decided to play the race card is because he did not like what people had to say. The whole special about where he was going was ridiculous. He made hisself larger than life, and this is what happens . He needs to be a big boy and get over it.

    October 2, 2010 at 3:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. tomcat

    damn this goes on forever kudos cnn. who gives a crap about REAL news? proud to be an American? I wonder some time. sad that this could enrage so many people. wake up it is just a game of high dollar round ball

    October 2, 2010 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. cuulshark

    Saying race is stupid. I'm Hispanic. If I could see that race might be a factor, then I might agree. Players these days have no loyalty, but that what happens when owners bow down to players and pay such offensive and obscene salaries and fans ultimately pay the price in ticket prices, parking, and obscene food prices at the arenas. All to support the rich life style of a sports figure whose sole talent is to make a basket, hit a ball and make fun of fans and refuse to sign autographs because they are too "important' to truly thank the people (fans) who have paid for their lavish lifestyle.That's what happens when you pay a sports figure millions of dollars yet pay our teachers and police pitiful salaries. Owners must stop paying such offensive and obscene salaries and have the courage to stop the cycle of paying such high salaries to rookies who haven't proven themselves or to persons who have yet to win a Championship. Salaries should be based on production, if you win a Championship you get a raise, if you don't then deduct from the salary for not meeting goals/objectives tied to your salary. no championship no high salary. race. that's crap. grow up and stop looking for excuses for deserting your city because you couldn't win a championship when the city tried to give you all you needed to excel to the next level.

    October 2, 2010 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dave

    He's a traitor. Plain and simple. He is the all time choke artist. Maybe in the filthy area of south florida he will be among his own!

    October 2, 2010 at 3:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. tomcat

    I rest my case

    October 2, 2010 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. T-2000

    CNN can delete this but I dont care. Since white people got such a problem with LeBron and black people in general we came up with a solution. For one week were gonna put u on punishment. Since u say we play the race card lets see u all go just one week without anything black. No music, sports, etc. EXACTLY. Without us u dont even exist.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:17 am | Report abuse |
  13. T-2000

    My boy Kanye (yes that Kanye) just text me saying what we all been talking about. He said maybe if white people had a culture of their own and their own style maybe they wouldnt have to wait on black people to change the world for them.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. OJ Simpson

    A week without anything black? Thats never gonna happen, believe me I know. Who would white people blame for all the problems in the world?

    October 2, 2010 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. Malcolm X

    Great idea T-2000. A week without anything black is interesting. In my day we had signs that said NO COLOREDS ALLOWED but for some odd reason white people couldnt stay away from us. A blackout isnt even necessary. If white people even imagined an hour without us it would be like the end of the world for them.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
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