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. namkcalb

    First let me get started with Charles Barkley with his big FAT married to a white girl ass. He can't say anything about race because his wife will whip his ass. He Michael Jordan and all the rest of the old has beens are just jealous of Lebron, his talent and the money he's making.

    Next let's talk about race. What is it with you people that make you so afraid to talk about race in this country? Is it because you don't want to face the fact that we live in one of the most racist countries on this planet? Me personally I don't give a damn what you say about what I'm writing all of you know the truth (black and white) but you are afraid to face it until then it will always be with us. They say that George Washington is one of our great presidents, a man that owned slaves and you want black people to acknowledge this, what a bunch of crock. Ask Obama is this country racist.

    Finally, have any of you ever entertained the idea that there might have been something going on with the Cavaliers that Lebron won't talk about. Something between him and the owner that made him leave. The owner is mad because he's built this big casino next door that he might not be able to fill now that his slave is gone.

    I'm glad he's gone and all of you haters, GET A LIFE. Because Lebron don't give a damn what you people think, and I'm SO GLAD.

    October 2, 2010 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • steve

      "Ask Obama if this country is racist"....hmm I asked this country that the white majority voted for him and concluded that no matter what whites do (vote for a black president) they will still be called racist. It's hopeless.

      October 2, 2010 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. AchromaticAdjulation

    It's always about race with these fking ppl.........I didn't think it was possible to hate this guy anymore but I was wrong.

    October 2, 2010 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. steve

    The tired, old race card gets played once again....

    October 2, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. jay

    typical blacks! always about racism! if that's the case, why da hell is he making so much money? and of course, O'brien had to bring up the subject.....stupid black people

    October 2, 2010 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. tomcat

    maybe he should have gone to college let his roomate spy on him or let the alums pay him ala reggie bush

    October 2, 2010 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. dirkl

    all i have to say is Michael Jordan , he was the best basketball player ever and he stayed out of all this stupid bullshyt spotlight , controversial crap . Jordan was and still is twice the person this guy will ever be.

    October 2, 2010 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gabe

    the race card is getting old period.

    No one in the nba today is,or was ever a slave. THey are all extremely wealthy, well-to-do and have it easy so they need to get off the pity party and just get on with their lives.

    October 2, 2010 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mark, Virginia

    Why is it such a big deal to say that race is a factor? He didn't say racist. And if you heard it that way, maybe you are being too sensitive.

    October 2, 2010 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  9. tomcat

    It amazes me that people can get so upset over this why not complain about the absurd salaries. I cant afford to take my family to pro games even college ticket prices are nuts unless I go see hooterville u play

    October 2, 2010 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. kamelred

    obama's fault

    October 2, 2010 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. tomcat

    hey cnn do you have the technology to clear maybe half these posts my fingers hurt from scrolling through posts made last evening?

    October 2, 2010 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. MEEENMACHINE

    What a pompous @hole, the guys hides behind kids , saying he did this for the kids , really ? You mean to tell me , he couldn't raise the same amount of money for the Boys and Girls Club , the old fashioned way , sitting along side Wade and Bosh in Miami , wearing Jerseys and announcing it together after notifying all their solicitors in a courteous manner, where they were going ? The billionaire owner of the Miami Heat wouldn't fork over $3 Mill extra for the 3 ,for charity, if it was a concession for their signing with him ? Disney(ESPN) wouldn't pay $3 Mil to have an exclusive interview, with all 3, together ? Sponsors wouldn't pay $3 mil for the commercials for this exclusive, for all 3 being together ?

    Classless Pompous moves :

    1-Making an exclusive for himself, Gods gift to the world and saying its for kids charity.
    2-Saying that all the teams pursuing him, were to learn their fate from watching TV, after many went out of their way to Cleveland to persuade him to join them , with huge marketing campaigns
    3-Not even giving a courtesy call to your former employer , thanking them for trying, we fell short , I'm moving on.
    4-Saying that "We talked about it together, we reached a decision together", while sitting ALONE for the interview .
    5-Not seeking professional advice, other then his homie from the hood .
    6-Blaming it on race, when he sold more of his jerseys to white people then black.
    7-Getting Jesse involved with him , when Obama ran away from him.

    Hope he got knee pads, cause he's going to get knocked down allot , driving through the lane. What an @hole !

    October 2, 2010 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
  13. Lulu

    This is exactly what is wrong with America... Nobody can read anymore. Accusing others of overreacting while overreacting. The man was asked if race played a part in the backlash, he said “I think so, at times.... There’s always a race factor." End of story!!! CNN and Soledad O’ Brien asked the puppets that we are to dance and we are dancing our bones off – they were looking for a bigger story when they asked the question because journalists no longer deliver news they create news. We see each other in terms of race whether we like it or not is it better than some years ago or have people gotten better at being PC? Look at any post board and see how people respond to each other because they are anonymous. Many of us are color blind and many others are not – It's life people deal with it!

    October 2, 2010 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • MEEENMACHINE

      Really ? ..So its fair to ask...Are you breathing right now ?... The answer w/o needing an answer is "Sure". Are you implying that the one person that died in front of his computer today , will be the reason why this question should be asked ?. Without really knowing the definitive answer ?... To blame race to any degree when the degree of prejudiced haters in this matter represent .05 of 1% is an ill advised answer(Correct answer: If it was, it was mi-nute), which is further compounded by people like you who can say in the same notion that a DNA test is not accurate(accurate enough).Well are you breathing ?

      October 2, 2010 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. MEEENMACHINE

    Pompous @hole = "We(Wade, Bosh and himself) talked about it together, we reached a decision together", while sitting ALONE for the interview !

    October 2, 2010 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. virgil1023

    The race card. Didn't see that one coming. What he needs is some good advice like when to keep his mouth shut. You have to blame alot of this on the advice he isn't getting. To stay in the inner circle he is only told what he wants to hear. It had just started to settle down and then the mouth again. Get off your high throne (pun intended). The world doesn't revolve around you. And as long as there is only one ball on the floor at a time I don't see a championship for Miami (a.k.a. LeBron and his .......).

    October 2, 2010 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
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