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. T-2000

    Yeah youre right Brother Malcolm. A Blackout would be horrible for white people. But it may be the only way for them to remember what is THE most important thing in their lives. They all say they hate Kanye but really. Lets just say when his album comes out next month every white person will have a copy.

    October 2, 2010 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. dave

    He better keep praying that white America even gives a crap about his money grubbing ways. I haven't heard of him or any of his other African / American buddies going back to the "homeland" and helping anybody out. I can't wait for whites to quit watching the native ritual dance known as the NBA. I've already quit watching pro baseball. Pro basketball is next.

    October 2, 2010 at 5:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. Air Boddie 23

    Think of it this way. If it was the 20s theyd be whining about Jack Johnson playing the race card. If it was the 60s Ali. The 70s Reggie Jackson. The 80s Mike Tyson. The 90s Allen Iverson. All the way to LeBron. Anybody see a trend? But as stated before for all the crying white people just cant get enough of us.

    October 2, 2010 at 5:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Air Boddie 23

    Yeah right "dave". No white man could go one week without sports which is dominated by black people. That includes Football. The #1 sport in America. Sorry man, we rule everything.

    October 2, 2010 at 5:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. T-2000

    Interesting...thx Air Boddie 23. Sometimes I forget how much were worth to white people. Its cool to know that me and my people are the most important people to ever walk the face of this earth.

    October 2, 2010 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
  6. Angela Davis

    How could u forget T-2000? White people didnt make all those long boat trips for nothing! Lol!

    October 2, 2010 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. lapz06

    They don't see him as a bad person because he black thats just plain stupid hes always been black and now that he does the most egoistic and heartless thing he says people hate him because hes black? Thats just stupid!!

    October 2, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Victor

    LeBron james is starting cry becasue he NEDS an excuse incase his teams loses. His mental state is one of a loser and that is what he is talking about under all the crap he is saying. If race was the real issue, then how come he has not packed up his belongings and moved to his "roots"? Answer> he would be shot quickly and all of his money, clothes, etc would be taking away very quickly. If he does not like it here then move to a different country quickly or keep your stupid mouth closed. You get paid big bucks –so what do you give back to the community–really give back. I'll tell very little compared to what you make.

    October 2, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. human being

    It's amazing 2 hear such venom about racism from people like Rita & Chris who refer to blacks as "all of them","they" which is racist and stereotypical. Yet they decry racism by "us". WE (Americans) have created the spoiled brat, egotistical athletes. We fund their astronomical salaries (& get ticked off when they don't make good decisions)while others- like children in our country go to bed hungry or dont get the medical care they need. As a teacher for over 2d years, i've spent hundreds of my own money to provide encentives, rewards for achievement & to provide everything from coats, shoes, socks, food, & supplies 2 kids and families.
    Let's get our priorities in order. Today's NBA players do not & will not be the ones making decisions about our country's issues and our children's futures.
    Black, white or green-we're all on the SAME boat, and if you have'nt noticed, we have a leak.

    October 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Air Boddie 23

    I dont even like LeBron that much but what he said was true.

    October 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. steve

    I am a Clevelander, love the cavs, loved watching james these past years. He was treated very well in this town, the team gave him some input and leeway on things.

    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 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Leo


    October 2, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. lapz06

    80 percent of the stands are what color?... paying your salary,get a grip!

    October 2, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Big Game James

    Cleveland fans are the only ones that have a right to be mad at lebron. Everybody else get a grip and watch the show when the Heat comes to light your city's team up!! He made a small comment about how race plays a role in just about everything in America. Everybody on here is not new to blogs and the day after 'the decision' the net was full of racist comments about lebron. I hope he wins a dozen rings. Make your money Lebron. If he was a third string cager they wouldn't give a damn what you said. Oh yeah, don't worry Lebron, all the WHITE girls will still want you. That's the only reason the WHITE boys don't like black pro athletes anyway!!

    October 2, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Air Boddie 23


    October 3, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
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