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. qpq

    Try this on for size... WWhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_the_United_States
    Statistics on Race, jobs, housing, criminal sentences by race just might open some eyes to the reality of non-white people in this hemisphere... and explain why so many whites are defensive when it comes to race issues.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cajun Dude

    I don't get it. Is he saying that he made a racist decision? Cleveland paid him everything possible, his jersey was all over the place, he had a gigantic poster of him at the arena.....
    and he said race played a factor?
    Was there too many white players on the team or what?

    October 1, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. j-swayze

    Race has been around since two different colored people laid eyes on each other. It will never go away. Big deal. The entire world is racist and America is one of the only countries trying to take a stand against the inequalities regarding such matters. Nothing's perfect, quit whinning and win an important playoff series

    October 1, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Shane Simpson

    Who cares he is a freaing athlete that has not contributed anything to society. It is just another example of Americans praising celebrity, athletes and fame. Get over it and move on. However, Lebron is a grown man that made Cleveland millions of dollars. He plays under contracts – he has the right to do whatever he wants and unfortunately the right to have a stupid hour special on ESPN to announce it.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. labronnumbnutts

    Lebron has been a tatal classless althlete every step of the way!!! Trying now to highlight the "race" card over his poor decisions is priceless. Its time to stop supporting any product the idiot supports.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. speakereater

    LeBron's the most overrated athlete since Brian Bosworth.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mbanks

    James is absolutely correct with his answer, by the way everybody does not hate James. I like him as a person, and I love his game. Good for you James, continue to speak the true.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Che Bravo

    LBJ just answered the lovely Soledad O'Brien's question. Nothing more to it. Race is a factor because there are some in America who hate to see a young black man rich and famous. Should LBJ be concerned with it? Nope! Racism will always be around and as long as there are young rich black men in the NBA, there will be haters.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rita

    SOLEDAD O'CRYING NEEDS TO GO WORK FOR JESSE SHARPTON....SHE'S BECOME THE FEMALE VERSION OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 1, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bob

    Must be nice to be able to blame racism rather than having to take responsibility for his enormous ego. Best basketball player? Maybe. Certainly most over-hyped.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Franklin

    Soledad hasn't watched many NBA games has she? The only time racism exists in the NBA is when a game goes from start to finish without a single white player getting on the court (happens quite often too)!

    October 1, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    The VAST majority of the NBA is black, and players move around all the time. How does he not see how his ego and the way he treated the people of cleveland is why people hate him. It has nothing to do with race. Nobody hates Bosh or Carmelo, or any other player that is going to a different team. But going on prime time to broadcast that you are leaving your home town (basically) is uncalled for.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mbanks

    Charles Barkley, shut up and go eat a 18 piece bucket of chicken, followed by 3 cakes, and 20 candy bars, then go lose a million dollars at the casino with your no championship ring ass.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mimi

    LeBron made his announcement in one of the most hurtful ways possible for the city of Cleveland and the Cav fans. That is a principal reason for the backlash he is receiving. Does he not understand this?

    October 1, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Notable

    a lot to the comments here mentioned how 'certain ones' always use this so called " RACE CARD." But have you ever thought that , For some that is just the hand they have been dealt. Race is rarely NOT ! an issue, ....period. One has to admitt, that black men epsecially in a position of any kind, are more prone to being scutinized and tested as to their integrity . (Ex: Obama)
    Racism is a cancer.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
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