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. duke

    Why should he have told the cavs his intentions?
    Those of us who follow sports know players sometimes wake on a different team than the one they were on the night before,and the owners don't have to say nothing to the player.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      The issue here is the prime time special. He is from Akron so he had a major connection to the city of Cleveland. He should have handled it better.

      October 1, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dotdashdot

    This is not a race issue. It's an issue of a bad decision by ESPN execs and LeBron's idiotic camp to air such a stupid special.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. susan walters

    The "spoiled brats" line is absolutely the best line ever. As far as Mr. James' comment: I am from Cleveland and can most assuredly say that his betrayal, immaturity, and self-absorbtion, not his race, caused the fans' reaction. The manner in which he announced his choice showed he is still a boy, not a man. As far as the donation to the Boys Club: Mr. James could have donated that amount from his petty cash drawer. Do the math as to percentage of his net worth that equals 3 million dollars. He made a choice for no reason other than ego and he needs to own the decision, not blame people for their reaction.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sonntag

    I live in LA. It seems to me that all races are bigots. Some blacks hate people just because of their skin color. Ditto for Mexicans, Asians, and everyone else. I'm Asian and in high school I was called a racist name three times, each time by African American girls. Why is it, then, that only African Americans get to blame everything on racism? I've always wonder this.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rita

      And on top of that, they'll say your comment is racist too!

      October 1, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. hope120

    HERE WE GO AGAIN. IF YOU CANT FIND ANYONE OR ANYTHING TO BLAME, USE THE OLE
    RACE CARD

    October 1, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Torpedo

    No, its an insult to any person who reads this to even claim race was a factor. Antoher cheap shot.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Seedenbetter

    All of CNN but especially Soledad O’ Brien, Anderson Cooper and Rick Sanchez are always out to stir the pot like this because they need content and this can cause a story by simply bringing up racism. They can get a bit of mileage out of it. They do this all the time.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. B2Tall

    Brett Favre has played the same diva act for three years now and he's been raked over the coals by the media each and every time. Now LeBron is being treated exactly thae same as a white, egomaniacal sports star and he's playing the race card?? I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Racism....sure. I wonder if he knows that 99% of the money he's earned (or will earn) has come out of white pockets. Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and now LeBron James. Yeah, right.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. duke

    Most of you people act as if black people were always given a fair shot in this country!
    Just because he's rich does that mean all white people see him as just a man?
    Plus white people are the first to tell you what is racist and what's not!
    I know this to be true,A hurt dog will holla,so maybe it's those white people who are on hear screaming the loudest that are the racist!!(That's a rant)

    October 1, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BigD

    Dumbest Interviewer I have ever seen. I don’t know how she gets to interview Lebroan and got Job at CNN. She walks in room with set up questions and think she got the job.. Did she ever think about follow up questions?
    Why he thinks Race? WHY? Just because he says you are done? What about Charles, Magic ripping you? Was that a Race too?

    October 1, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. steve

    how about if whites stopped going to nba games – would that make you feel better ?

    October 1, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • michaljohn

      hello friends here is michal and looking for business

      Divorce Solicitors

      October 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bassman

    I think race has nothing to do with criticism of LeBron, but he is attempting to dismiss all the criticism with the race card. This is just about as weak as his ego is large.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jim Dominic

    LeBron James is not a victim of racism or of any other discrimination. He has benefited from his immense talent as a basketball player. He has his share of detractors, but they criticize him on the basis of his behavior, not on the basis of the color of his skin.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. duke

    Now cnn has fired rick sanchez over comments about john stewart and the jews who own the world.
    I guess it's just a racist hate filled day today!!

    October 1, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ryan

    LeBron didn't mention race, Soledad did. He was just responding to her question about it, one that he probably wasn't expecting. Why isn't this discussion focused on Soledad trying to stir things up with the race card?

    October 1, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rita

      Soledad's a racist CVNT!!!

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