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. Bob from Toronto

    LOL that was the only excuse Lebron James had to say to get out of all the crap hes in. Damn it must be nice to be black

    October 1, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Drakan5151

    You know it always amassed me when Black athletes admit that race is a factor is some of the decissions that affect their work, lives or pay check and then the whole world jumps at them Thinking how ccan you say that? Just because your paying some one an obscene amount of money doesn't mean he stops seeing whats going on around him. As long as there are black, white , yellow, tan etc.... people on this planet race will be a factor. If race was not a factor somebody would have noticed he gave all the profits to charity instead of bring out the media lynch mobs to crucify him as a meglamanic.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. quorndawg

    "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)

    That line made my ROFL

    October 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      Did you read a different article than everyone else. Or do you have an alternative learning style? Which is okay if you do. I think that you misunderstand what he said. You must have been waiting for that one. LMAO

      October 1, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • hope120

      YOU SAID IT.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lebron is a DA

    Lebron Get over yourself you idoit. Crybaby d bag...f u lebron

    October 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      Wow!!! Why are you SO angry? Please share! LOL!

      October 1, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tommy

    I have said it once, I have said it a million times. The difference between Lebron and Michael Jordan is Michael did not need to go find a premade team to take him to the playoffs. Dont send in a boy to do a mans job! Lebron needed a team because he knows...Carry the team Lebron not the team carry you. Lebron should be the next model for Gerbers baby food.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bill

    Listen to Charles Barkley. If ANYBODY knows stupid it's Barkely. He didn't write the book on it but's he's added several chapters.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. arshavin

    I have to admit, I did not know that he donated the money to the B&G Club.
    I would like to know, however, if they decided upon where to send the money before or after the hoopla.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      Actually it was announced before the decision came out that Lebron was going to take all the proceeds from the advertisements sold during the airtime and give the money to the Boy's and Girl's club.

      October 1, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • does it matter?

      It is nice he gave the money to the B&G Club, but he could write a 3 million dollar check like I write a 5 dollar check and saved everyone the drama. It really isn't that charitable after all. Doing an hour long special on B&G Club would have been better than The Decision or better yet volunteering that time with the kids. It was a bad decision to go on national TV and do what he did & he isn't making it any better with these comments in this interview. I think it is sad people think the backlash had anything to do with race. It has to do with character. If a white player did what he did, the treatment would be the same. With that said I am sure LaBron has experienced racism in his lifetime, after all he wasn't always a rich superstar, and I am sure even his status now doesn't matter to some, but it does a disservice to all of those that want racism to end to equate this to racism.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Byron McClellan

    Let's keep an open mind here. When Ms. O'Brien asked about "backlash", we assume that LaBron, in his answer, was referring to the backlash from the public or the media. The backlash he was referring to may have been the backlash he felt from the Cavaliers, or maybe LaBron personally experienced something we know nothing about that led him to feel this way. As a Black man in the Mid-West, I know you don't have to do much to feel racism. Ever heard of DWB, Driving While Black.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Nikkie

    He didn't bring up race, he merely answered a question. If Cleveland wantd to get rid of him they wouldn't have given him notice so why did he have to give any.... get over it, he plays basketball for Miami and that's what he does, he PLAYS BASKETBALL!!!!!

    October 1, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. isadore

    It is so unfortunate that someone who has been gifted with incredible talent has so little character. Race has nothing to do with this. If you act like an @%!hole, you're going to get treated as such. stop whining, LBJ.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Markus30

    Lebron James is annoying... what a punk.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DENVERABE

    How does it feel to be called a racist DEMOCRAPS!? LOL!!!

    October 1, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      You are angry person today? LOL!!!!! Is it worth it?

      October 1, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Your Kidding Right

    I say boycot his sponsors, I know I will not buy any product that he indorses. He is a spoiled brat who should have gone on to colledge to learn how to act in a polite society before being exposed to more money than he could have ever dreamed of.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      You bring up an interesting point. I do believe Lebron grew up way too fast. I think the process started even before he came to the NBA or even before he was in high school with his upbringing. Sometimes that will come back to bite you, and in his execution of the decision it did. Lebron is an intelligent human who really didnt have a childhood so he still has some growing to do, but to say things like he should learn how to act in a "polite society" implies that he has no sense whatsoever, and I don't think thats the case with him at all.

      October 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • MAVF

      Obviously, you didn't go to college cuz you can't spell it. Don't be so critical, look at yourself first and figure out why you needed to make a comment like this.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kb12

    What he stated is he thinks that race played a role in the backlash, not that it was racism. No, it wasn't a great exit and definitely not the best way to share his decision. He probably should have at least let the Cavs know first and then continue with the show. He also should have stated that the proceeds will benefit the Boys and Girls card. Racism is very much alive and well. And some people may have been peeved. I have heard him been called the "n" word several times by non-minorities. As much as we hate to admit it, it does play a role in minds of many, not all, but many. We can put the race card to rest when we leave it on the shoulder of the racist and just do the right thing. There is a time and place to cry racism. Not going to judge him. He will grow.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DENVERABE

    Dems, why wouldn't you hate Lebron anyway, he's rich.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      There a lot of rich Dems, Independents, and Republicans. Too much typecasting going on. Can we all try to get on the same page!!!! LOL!

      October 1, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • superman76

      'typecasting'?? you mean stereotyping, kb12. you got beat up a lot when you were younger, didn't you?

      October 1, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
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