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. speakereater

    Quit crying. Lebron's such a kid.I hope he breaks his ankle in preseason and misses the regular season so he can come back for playoffs and choke like he always does.People talk about Dirk Nowitzki not showing up in the playoffs, but Lebron plays like he smoked an ounce of hydro before each playoff game.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lala

      Where I come from, when you wish evil for another person, you are usually requesting all hell to break loose around you. Instead of wishing for Lebron to break his ankle, take care of yourself dumb idiot.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      Be careful what you wish. Judgment day will be a difficult day for you. What you wish on others will come back to haunt you if it's ill-will. If you don't like his character, fine. But, he hasn't done anything to you. Be angry at Wall Street

      October 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • unknown

      Lebron James did what he felt he needed to do at this juncture in his life. Get over it. As for those former NBA players taking cheap shots at Lebron James, don't they have anything better to do? Good luck to Mr. James and the Miami Heat.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob from SC

      Race, as stated in the article, will ALWAYS play some part (larger or smaller depending). It is a simple matter of our history here in the US. Trying to say he's acting "dumb" is just a way to cover up our unease with the fact that he is, in part, right. That being said, he has also acted a bit on the naive side of things with respect to public reaction to some of his actions/statements...but then he is only in his mid-20s...mature beyond his years in some aspects, relatively immature in others. Overall, I give him a B grade....and don't dump all the criticism for "The Decision" on him alone...the media obviously thought enough of it to lay out a HUGE amount of money.

      October 1, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allen

      Do a little bit of research and see the facts that The Decision actually made $7 million for advertising, only $3 million was given to the boys and girls club. The rest was taken by Maverick Carter and team Lebron, absolutely bogus for them to pretend for even one minute this was about 'sacraficing' and doing something good for the kids.

      October 1, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • logic

      "dumb idiot" most brilliant comment ever. loser.

      October 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jersey Joe


      October 1, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • DGCanada

      Ill say this ... race is always an issue. That is true.

      However, sometimes it is the issue because of basic bigotry and hatred, and mere stupidity to be honest.

      And sometimes its like this situation, where a person makes a dumb-ass selfish move and tries to use race as a small excuse for their actions. News flash Mr. James, if they hate you cause you are black, it don't matter what team you play for.

      Fans in general are not mad at Lebron because hes black .. they are mad because he sold out. Period. This is not much different then Eric Lindros refusing to play for Quebec in the NHL ... why wasn't his color a reason ??

      C'mon people, how in the hell are we supposed to move forward as one people on this planet if we keep going back to old familiar crap.

      October 2, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Choke in the playoffs...please! He did not choke in this years playoffs.....he knew exactly what he was doing. He slacked off.....it all started in game four....he realized we can win this and if we do how the hell can I leave the defending world champions to go to Miami. Go back and watch the videos you will see a change in his demeanor from that game on.

      October 2, 2010 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Boris

      We will make sure that he remembers his Decision for the rest of his life. LeBron is pathetic and I wish he never gets the Championship Ring. Truly great players do not do things like that. He left a permanent stain on his reputation. He will never rise to the level of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and other greats.

      October 2, 2010 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Harry P Ness

      @ speakereater, I hope he breaks his frigin neck and has to spend the rest of his life in bed, no longer even able to wipe he's own ass!!! Now you could
      make a fortune selling tickets to see that!!! Clevelanders would stand in line all day to see him like that!!! LOL!!!!!

      October 2, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • steve

      going on tv to say ' see ya cleveland' was wrong. but it was his choice to leave, he could have done it some other way than embarassing 'us' in prime time.

      as a white guy, I hated when jim thome left, hate art modell still. Most fans of sports could care less about skin color, you are either liked or not, mainly because of actions, and effort.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      Saying race was a factor in the responses to his move is silly. The man moved for money (lower taxes) and for a chance at a chamionship (more money). He decided to abandon his home town for his own gain, most meaningful comments are made on the facts, not race. Oh yeah... LeBron truly disrespected Shaq too. What's a promise in front of more money?
      Shaq WILL be back and the Celtics will make LeBron look silly again, trust in that. Race has nothing to do with this.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AC

    Soledad O'Brien wanted to make it about race, everything she writes is about race. The day the race card stops being played is the day Civil Rights takes a giant leap forward.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Riel23

      Of course race is a big matter. Race is an quintessential part of the American social fabric. It is ingrained in our self conscious since childhood and it affects our social relationships and interactions sometimes if not most times without us even knowing about it. The same goes for gender. Those who refuse to admit that race and gender affects their social behavior, thinking and social interactions are in self denial. Its a fact, it has even been proven in children as young as 4 and 5. Its sub conscious. Our brains even react differently when we see someone from a different ethnic group from someone of our own. Its part of human revolution and nature. But you need to admit it in order to fight it, or in many of your cases to like it, embrace your basic instincts and think of the world that way.

      October 1, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • MAVF

      How can she stop talking when your heart is black and evil. Race is like the thread in a quilt, unravel it and the quilt comes apart.

      October 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      That's her discipline. There is nothing wrong with that. Racism is alive, but, that's not what he is saying. Not at all. Race plays an issue, when someone say that "n@gge#".... I have heard it. But, that's not his position. I do believe there are a lot of non-minorities who attacked him just because. Some bloggers admit that they don't even watch basketball, but, still had an opinion. It has nothing to do with any of us on this site. Nothing. Her study of race in American is far reaching and does not make her a bad person. It exists. Different from 30 years ago, yes, but, it exists. Always has and always will.

      October 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • gene

      With non whites it's always about race.

      October 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • MojoBlack

      hmmm who cares what Lebron thinks? Go buy a fancy car HAHAHAHAHAH go buy a big boat HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA........or STFU a do something that matters....

      October 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jose M. Rosario

      Everything in the U.S. is about race. What you think is going on right now with President Obama. Iseen comment on the internet like human trash, communist, they even say that he is not even smart? Yeah we need Bush and Republicans back.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jersey Joe


      October 2, 2010 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |

      Stop blaming Soledad, both Lebum and his high school handler , handled the answer poorly. Classic and correct answer : "If it was race, it was mi-nute"...END OF STORY !

      October 2, 2010 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. hgsei

    LOL LEBRON ARE YOU KIDDING ME. This was done to glorify yourself more than raising money for the Boys & Girls Club. I'm glad that you helped raise all this money for them but come on.. let's be real here.. it was all centered around you. You had to make it a big deal. It doesn't take a 1 hour show to say something that takes less than 5 seconds. Get out of here Lebron. You are pathetic.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ed

    why dont he take his millions and shut up!

    October 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      Can I have the millions!!!!! Don't be too angry. It doesn't affect you. It's just basketball. Let's be angry at Wall Street.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Medic

    I know O'Brien is all hyped up about anything remotely being racial (she needs material for "Black in America 3" afterall) but the fact that she asked this question at all is rediculous.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      Why is the question ridiculous? Maybe it should have been visited later on. He gave a brief, very brief answer. That's all.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • filter

      I agree, the question is asked too often. Then when there legitimately is an issue with racism (which still happens often) people don't see it.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Addresti

      I agree with you on Soledad. She is Reporter for minority issues at CNN. I think this lead off question was poor journalism and I hate to think it, but she is antagonizing people to make statements about racism and discrimination. It was very poorly done.
      As for LeBron. Yeah all those millions of white kids that buy your shirts, shoes, posters and beg for tickets to see you play (but cannot afford them as they are $1000+ in Miami) are really racists. What a drama king. Jeesh

      October 2, 2010 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |

      What I gathered from his handler ..I think reverse racism is involved here ! The very reason reason "The Decision" came about , is to mock and ridicule the professional style of how Free agent signings were handled at Press conferences, by the Establishment white people , to show how Lebum can make the richest white people eat crow, from 2 cats from the hood.

      October 2, 2010 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. Troy from S'port

    I feel so sorry that he can't get ahead in life because of his race. Stupid ******

    October 1, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      I don't think he said that or feels that way. I don't most minorities do. I think most minorities embrace who they are. I haven't met anyone who feels that they can't get ahead because of their race. College is an option. Grad school, great opportunities exist. I don't think he said or feels that.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • superman76

      kb12, his post was sarcasm, you mental midget.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. speakereater

    Lebron and athletes like him are what will eventually kill american sports. I know many people who stopped watching the NFL because of the jokers they have in that league.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Grayday44

    I'm just disappointed in Lebron. He is a great athlete that never had any race issues until no one liked the "Decision". I'm African American and feel that he just made a bad decision and had the wrong advice. He lost so many fans due to his selfishness. That's not race that stupidity.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • dukesaint

      Lebron isn't saying it as a scapegoat. it was a simple answer to a question that had been asked. Racism is everywhere and still exist so he stats it COULD be ONE POSSIBLE reason. He does not state that is the only reason.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike K

    The issue isn't race LeBron. It's the fact that many reasonable people question whether you care about anything but yourself. Just roll your post-game comments after you and your U.S. National teammates were eliminated by Spain in 2004. You played non-chalantly. Like it didn't matter. After the game you were blase, saying something like: it was just another game. Nice way to represent your country. You played with the Cavaliers going down the stretch and let them down. Got talent? Sure. Probably more than anyone so far. Heart? Nope.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emerick

      Someone said that BET (Black Entertainment) is racist, and if there was a White Entertainment Network, then Jesse Jackson would be acting up. The fact is that white is not a subculture, and therefore the norm is "White Entertainment". When you turn on your television, who do you see more of...whites or blacks? There are some movies where no blacks can even be found as main actors or even as background actors walking down the street. So "White Entertainment" exist without the name. If BET was named "The Open Network" that does not make it any less of a Black Entertainment Network. Simply because Martha Stewart or FOX isn't named the "White Entertainment Network", does not mean that it is not.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Howard

    I really like Charles Barkley – he calls it like he sees it and he is absolutely right!

    October 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. elidude

    Yet one more reason NOT to watch/attend professional basketball. Big $, big egos, "big" "news". Who needs it. GIve me high school bball any day.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • MAVF

      I wander if you felt that way 30 years ago when the only one playing were white men. Who was gettin' paid then. Now, that black men make money off a round brown ball, you're all hot and heated. Give me a break.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • superman76

      mavf, those white men who played bball in the past didn't act like big, dumb kids NEAR as much as the darker hued players today. deal with it.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • fu ravf

      RAVF.......you are a racist

      October 1, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jodoma22

    ohhh ok. When in doubt, play the race card...

    What it really comes down to is Lebron & his team making a horrible decision to tell fans he's leaving his home town via a special. Attracting more attention to a decision most people are going to react to negatively too. GOOD plan. It went WELL!

    October 1, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. khyra

    wht is he going to pick

    October 1, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Todd

    Ok guys. Heres the reality. Listen to what he said. He said it was "A factor" not that it was the "only factor." He changed teams, which is his right as a free agent. I think it is being blown out of proprotion because there are a lot of people who would like to think that race is no longer a factor in our society just because there is a black man in the white house. It simply makes people "uncomfortable" to discuss, but this is a reality in our society.

    I do agree that before he had that special on ESPN, he could have gone to Dan Gilbert, looked him in the eye, told him his decision, and thanked him for seven great years. Although I'm sure Dan would have been hurt, I don't know if we would have seen quite the visceral reaction he had.

    But back to the original question: Is race a factor? It is a reality as JA Adande said in a sport with predominately black players and predominantly white owners and ticket holders, it will be a factor. It certainly by no means is the only factor, but to turn a blind eye to it is not the right response either.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • django

      looking at some of the vitriol on these posts there is clearly an issue

      October 1, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • L

      How exactly is race a factor? I keep hearing that alot but nobody actually points out a specific example. You can't just say things without any evidence or else you are just throwing out subjective opinions that no one has any reason to take seriously. Imagine if I said race was a factor if a black owner fired a white player. People would look at me like I'm crazy and call me out on it. Why aren't people doing that in this case. Always question opinions people cause in most cases there is no basis for them and in this case I would love to see some.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ma_falaa_50

    did he just turn "black" recently? because not unless he has- race is not an issue. The fact that he is soo narsisitic to even realize that the kids from the boys and girls club didnt even care about where he goes just shows you how out of touch with reality LeBaby is with the outside world. He should just shut up and play ball. He may be a great talent in his era but there is no way he can dominate the way magic, jordan, and larry did. I dont think the Bad boys would let him get off the hook either.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
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