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. paul druppel

    wow....the race card again......get over it ....whites pay you to live like a king for putting a ball in a hole ...where would you be if you couldnt play basketball ...what a joke

    October 1, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      College maybe?

      October 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Easy4u2Say

      (quote) "whites pay you to live like a king for putting a ball in a hole ...where would you be if you couldnt play basketball ...what a joke" (unquote)

      And we're supposed to believe that "race" isn't an issue when you make comments like that?! What a joke!

      October 1, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JC

    Seriously, Lebron just turned himself into more of a joke. No one ever says I'm a fan of Michael Jordan, Kobe or Magic Johnson because of their race. Lebron needs to come down to earth, realize he's human like the rest of us and quit the circus act. He's a basketball player.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. kb12

    Too much hatred when it comes to discussing this issue. It's like being on Foxnews. The people responding don't need to be angry with him or Dan Gilbert. That's on them. His million or Dan Gilbert don't feed my family. I didn't watch the show and I could care less. The sooner we let things be on other people, have the conversation about race, and understand what racism REALLY is, the better off we will be. There is so much division in this country right now, this is irrelevant. This is so irrelevant.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • DENVERABE

      kb12, The dialogue on Fox news is far less hate filled than the progressive/libtard blogs or news media. Get your head out of the sand and try watching Fox sometime, you might learn something!

      October 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • superman76

      ok, kb12. enlighten us. what do you think racism REALLY is?

      October 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Easy4u2Say

      Haha! Fox News – the accurate moral authority on race, religion, politics. I totally forgot. Give me a break! This is a CNN website. Have some respect.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      I actually learn a lot watching Foxnews. I am referring to the hatred expressed. Thanks for the advise. Very intelligent.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      @superman. Ha-ha!!! You got me! Racism is an overt and covert expression and feeling of hatred towards ANY ethnic group. We all have prejudices and biases. But, we become more educated and accepting when we surround ourselves with people that are different. It's how we thrive. We are a lot better off than we were 30 years ago. Racism doesn't sleep though. How can it? Sometimes it is passed down through the generations. Some people don't know anything else. But, you meet that one person or have that one experience that changes it all. That's why college can be a great venture. Traveling. The dialogue. Let's talk it. Anyway. Sorry for the long answer.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Easy4u2Say

    While I will be the first to admit that I am not a LeBron James fan, I would like to say this: While the comments made by Mr. James could have been interpreted in numerous ways, the simple fact is that Mr. James never brought up the topic in the first place; it was a question posed by Ms. O'Brien. Mr. James simply answered the question. Furthermore, unfortunately speaking, race IS still a big factor in business today – which the NBA is a business. Look no further than politics to find racially charged comments and nonsense being propagated in public, on national TV no less. It would be extremely ignorant and irresponsible to excuse Mr. James' comments as being silly or unfounded. Additionally, the race "factor" Mr. James was referring to could have come from the black community or the white community as both can claim to be disenfranchised by Mr. James. With that being said, and moving past the character assassination of Mr. James, is LeBron really worth all of this attention? He holds no championship rings. And as charismatic and as much of a prodigy that everyone claims he is, he really isn't one of the greatest players in the world. Jordan, Bryant, Johnson and even O'Neal... these are the greatest. LeBron is overrated as a player. Period. Everyone, black or white, upset about LeBron's comments are really just immature "kids" who like to stir up dust over nothing – and immaturity, i'm afraid, is color blind.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Demetry

    Everybody is saying he is selfish but "The Decision" gave 3 million to little kids. How selfish is that? Everybody that's dumping on him how much have you given to little kids? Exactly!

    October 1, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dukesaint

    All of you are ridiculous. not once does he say racism is ultimate reason for all the hatred toward him. Instead all he did was answer a question stating that racism maybe be a part of it. You are all blind fools if you believe it does not exist anymore. Also you are fools if you think that he isn't aware of all the other reasons why people are angry at him. I agree his decision to publicize 'the decision' was not solely to help the kids and that he had alternative motives to further his ego. But you can not deny that is not a worthy of recognition. Yes i feel bad for Cleveland and wished Lebron had stayed and achieved a championship for himself and the city. but i don't sit here and hold a grudge upon a man who spent 7 years of his professional career playing for his city. I believe a look into the past you will see a coach who didn't acquire the right players, and mind frame built up into the city and the team that lebron was to do it himself with as little help as possible. I felt bad for him year after year when he did not achieve his goal for a championship. In the end he made a decision a very difficult and wrongly portrayed to the media decision to go to a team to achieve that goal. Yes i believe it is a scapegoat to take away some of the pressure of a team, no a city, no a state to win a championship. Miami best choice to win but with the least focus on his own success and failures.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Byron

    By the way, MEN SHOULD NOT TEXT OR TYPE LOL.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. B=Dog

    LaBron is an over-rated, over-hyped player. You can't be the best player without winning a ring or 2.... or 5. He's no Jordan or Kobe. I really REALLY hope they su&k this year, that would REALLY be funny! Doesn't really matter... the Lakers are gonna 3 peat anyway.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. m

    I hate how whenever people mention race as a factor, certain people start decrying the use of "the race card" {It's not a "card"} or find the various ways of silencing a potentially genuine explanation (stop whining, stop complaining, stop talking about your hard life etc.). Sometimes, race can be a factor and all those reactions represent another more subtle form of oppression. Race can be a factor. Just like gender, religion, education, social class, immigration status, age, your looks can be "factors" depending on contexts.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      Did he do that????????? I didn't gather that. It was one question. Go back and read it...

      October 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      @m. My apologies. I see your point. Good point.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dizzybuzz

    Why did the chicken cross the basketball court? He heard that some NBA mom was over their blowing fouls.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hoosier Daddy

    OK, if the backlash about LeBron's decision was about race, then how does he – and his defenders – explain the general public's reaction to Brett Favre's retirement decisions? Everybody is tired of his cr*p too and last I checked he was a good ol' white boy from the south! Believe it or not, blacks can be ego-maniacal a**holes too and just because we don't like them for the way they act doesn't mean we have to be racist. It could be that they're just jerks!!

    October 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • kb12

      I don't he said that?? I think that everyone is reading WAY too much into it. Did they Brett a "n@gg@r"? But Lebron was called that. But, he didn't say that it was racism.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • dukesaint

      once again your missing the point. they are not saying racism is the only factor but a POSSIBLE factor...get it? got it? ok good

      October 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hoosier Daddy

      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.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • superman76

      hoosierdaddy, how about you stop using the term 'whiteboy'. it's degrading to white men like myself. if you're a white man and you call yourself or others whiteboy, then you're obviously ok with being emasculated. do you think black men let others call them blackboy? no, they have pride. and kb12, you keep saying people called lebron the 'n-word'. sources, you troll, sources.

      October 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • filter

      Saying that race was a factor is the definition of racism.

      October 1, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. m

    And if race weren't a "factor", then, there would be no need for some of those vitriolic responses that occur whenever "race" is mentioned.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jason

    It was a bad move to go on TV for a hole hour to tell the fans of cleveland that your leaveing. But to see people(All white people) Burning his jersy and an owner who felt like he owned his life you start to think why so much haterd he took less money and a lesser role thats called sacrafice in my book

    October 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    Who cares. It's basketball and he is a spoiled brat who plays the game. He gave the CAVS 7 years. Grow up Clevland. As far as what Charles Barkley said about it who cares there too. He is just a big mouth idiot himself. In all race had nothing to do with peoples reaction Another stupid black American blaming his woes on racism. If your oh so put upon then leave. Go to England, France, Africa,who cares, Just leave! We only want people who can actualy enhance American society anyways so take your back alley street slang whiney voice somewhere else.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Steve Barylick

    LeBron is a great basketball player. At this point in his life and career, he is not a great person, he is not a reasonable spokesperson for the sport, he is not a messiah for race or politics of race in this country. LeBron may grow into these other roles, if so, he will be a complete human being... until then, he is a selfish, immature, uninformed individual. Race placed him at the pinnacle of his sport. If he objects playing for white players and owners, go to college and see how the rest of us struggle to better ourselves.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cat V

      You seem to be the uniformed individual. Selfish??? You're crazy!

      October 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • superman76

      how did race place him at the pinnacle of his sport?

      October 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
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