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. gilloc

    So they made their biggest marketing move and now they are in huge PR mess so when all else fails, throw in the race card? Media personalities like Soledad Obrien, much like the HLN personalities, will add fuel to the fire that leads to hatred.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tygr6

    Lebron who?

    October 1, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. phil

    The NBA fixes it's own games so these "players" are really just actors. No? Read "The Fix Is In" and find out how US courts have already decided it's legal for the NBA to order referees to fix games.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. OldMo

    Something is uncomfortable in my life. . .RACISM! RACISM! RACISM! Fight the power there Lebron, we're all hoping you manage to overcome these incredibly trying times

    October 1, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jimmy Snyder

    Of course race is a factor. LeBron would be pumping gas at the Citgo if he were born white!! He should thank his lucky stars for his muscular thighs and large buttocks. A white LeBron certainly couldn't jump as high and wouldn't be the natural athlete that he is today.

    October 1, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. yaya

    The day all whites in America are ready and willing to trade places with minorities they can talk about the absence of racism...

    October 1, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. deckmje

    Can someone please tell me what the correct response for non-minorities is? Are we supposed to be happy that he strung Clevelanders out for a year and had it all come down to a one hour self gratifying love fest? I wouldn't treat my dog the way he treated his fans in cleveland. No one, not white, or black, or even plaid would want to be treated this way. Anybody defending this crap is rediculous and racist themselves. You can only be offended by his behavior if your not white? Really?

    On a side note, if he hadn't have made some of the proceeds of this debacle go to something worth while then he would have really been critized. He used the boy and girls club too. He is so awesome.

    October 1, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. lapz06

    This kid disgusts me,YOU need this much attention? This is why we shouldn't be paying these kids this kind of money,they RUIN everything,it's his personality and arrogance no one can stand no more,i don't think you can be more self centered than this kid...just play ball like your supposed to,your really not that important..LEBRON LEBRON LEBRON...stfu already,your gonna look back one day and see how stupid you look and sound,or maybe your uneducated a$$ won't, but money isnt everything and your making a bed that is gonna be hard to lay in.

    October 1, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. lapz06

    Sometimes the sports are more dangerous than others and, I suppose, deserve a little bit more pay than other sports but millions of dollars is way out of the question. Sports, like baseball or basketball, are not that dangerous. I mean how many athletes are disabled by a baseball or basketball hoops? Athletes play dangerous sports for the money, not for any other reason, so it is a greedy career. which helps no one but the promoters' and athletes' pockets.
    I think that dangerous jobs, such as the military and firefighters, deserve more pay than professional athletes because their jobs actually protect us and save lives. This needs to be taken into consideration when deciding on the different levels of pay deserved to be paid for different careers. I think that sports should be at the bottom of the pay scale simply because of the inherent value and benefit to society is very low for professional athletes

    October 1, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lapz06

    Until our priorities change, and people stop paying ridiculus prices for sporting events, athletes will continue to be over-paid to entertainers.

    October 1, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. who cares

    When you read most of the comments on this post you can see why most people dislike evil thinking nasty month white folks.

    October 2, 2010 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. who cares

    When you read most of the comments on this post you can see why most black people dislike evil thinking nasty mouth hateful white people......

    October 2, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tom4650

    Lebron, you poor self absorbed weenie! You have 'played' everyone since you were in high school. And now you have the gall to pull this crap? You deserve what you got. True, you are one hell of a ball player. But at the same time, you need to GROW UP and take it like a man. No one promised you life was gonna be fair or pleasant. And as far as I know, no one has appointed you GOD............not yet anyway. Suck it up dude. You reap what you sow.

    October 2, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. Brian

    Race – a subject that sparks emotion from all!
    Racism is a part of every day life in this country today but when you hear the word "racist" you immediately are programmed to think that a white person is attacking a black person! This in itself is a problem with society today. There are just as many black racists as there are white, hispanic, asian, etc... yet all we EVER hear about is the persecution of a black person. NEVER do we hear cased of provocation/racist attacks of whites from blacks or white equal rights advocates chasing bogus races such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. The perpetuate the problem, not work towards solving it!
    Yes, racism still exists in this country and is far from over but the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and ignorant comments from Lebron James that CRY racism only put your efforts further behind and show that you are holding on to a crutch that has no "leg" to stand on!

    October 2, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. M. jora

    This is the same guy who couldn't figure out why people were upset that he wore a Yankees hat to an Indians game against NY and who wore a "Lebron for MVP" T-shirt in public just days after being upset in the playoffs. He simply doesn't get "it." Enough of this moron.

    October 2, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
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