LeBron fires another brick.

LeBron James is in the news again thanks to the idea that the fallout from his “Decision” is all because of race. Yeah, of course it is. Nevermind the narcissistic way he went about his free-agency or how childish he’s acted because of it. Here’s why we’re talking about this:

Maverick Carter admitted in an interview Wednesday night on CNN the execution of the “Decision” could have been better. LeBron James is proud of the $3 million the show raised for the Boys & Girls Club. Both men believe race has played a factor in the backlash James has received.

“I think so at times,” James said. “It’s always, you know, a race factor.” Added Carter: “It definitely played a role in some of the stuff coming out of the media, things that were written. For sure.” To be fair, the race question was posed by CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien. It was asked about halfway through the segment, both men answered separately and the piece proceeded with no further mention.

(from SLAM Online)

One of the things fueling this speculation is the fact that LeBron’s Q rating, which is a rating of how well-known and appealing an athlete is, has plummeted since his “Decision.” An ESPN article by Vincent Thomas shows that LeBron’s negative Q rating among non-blacks went from 24% to 44%; his positive Q rating went from 18% to 10%. Meanwhile, among blacks, his negative Q rating went from 14% to 15% while his positive Q rating went from 52% to 39%. However, the article skimps out on some things. The author does not bother to explore why people don’t like LeBron. What did he do that elicited this response? Could it be how he handled himself? Also, there are more “non-blacks” than “blacks” in America. Is that why it looks like blacks are the only people who don’t hate LeBron? Did the survey take that into account? And I’m not disputing that there aren’t racists out there, because there are. Because this is America and we’re all sinful people, I know there are people who blindly hate LeBron or any other player in sports just because of their skin color. But is that what’s happening here?

The article also talks about what people in Cleveland have been doing since LeBron left, whether it’s fans burning his jersey or Cavs owner Dan Gilbert writing an angry letter. That’s just what people who are too wrapped up into sports do. Some fans are just insane. However, an e-mailer to the Jim Rome Show from Cleveland just said that Cleveland is very segregated. I wouldn’t know, I don’t live there. I’m also white, so I’ve never faced anything like that. But you can’t necessarily take fans’ actions and make the assumption that they’re just racist. Cleveland fans love their teams and the Cavs were the only one with a shot at winning a championship any time soon. Of course they were and still are upset. There’s a clip that shows up on a lot of videos about the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics rivalry that shows two Lakers fans ripping apart a Larry Bird jersey and they’re both white. What, are they racist against their own race? Or are they just a couple of knuckleheads who hate Larry Bird? And speaking of crazy fans, what will happen during Sunday’s game between the Washington Redskins-Philadelphia Eagles game when Donovan McNabb returns to Philly for the first time?

Another e-mailer sarcastically wrote in and said that of course it’s about race: no one said a thing when John Stockton hosted a variety show to announce he was resigning with the Utah Jazz or when Larry Bird held a rally in Boston to announce he was staying with the Celtics. Of course they didn’t. And you know why? It’s not because they were white, it’s because they didn’t do anything like that, which was the whole point of the e-mail. Stockton and Bird didn’t do that because they were professionals who put their teams before them, unlike LeBron. Afterward, Rome countered with a “what if.” I’ve always thought that “what if” propositions were a waste of time because all we know is what did happen and what didn’t happen, but I’ll entertain the thought nonetheless. So what if Jim Gray had shown up to Larry Bird’s house and told him he could get him a primetime slot on ESPN to announce his decision to return to the Celtics? You know what would have happened? Bird would have told him to get the hell off his lawn, that’s what.

I know, I know. Stockton and Bird are both white guys. So about Bill Russell? Today he is universally beloved as a team player who won 11 championships with the Celtics. He never would have had gone on TV to make his decision. Also, he and his Boston teammates also had to deal with racism, but it wasn’t “manifested” through some farcical Q rating. It was real. People treated them differently because of their skin color. Do you see anyone doing that to LeBron? What about Michael Jordan? He’s egotistical like LeBron but he never would have done what LeBron did.

Deadspin.com has also has an interesting take on the issue. I couldn’t sum up what they say any better:

But LeBron James is different. No one hates him for screwing over Dan Gilbert, who comes off totally unsympathetic after his petulant open letter. If LeBron James is one of the most hated athletes in the country, it’s because he’s seen as selfish and out of touch.

And not understanding why people hate him after The Decision is probably more harmful to his image than The Decision itself. It’s not because James is black; it’s because he’s a celebrity, raised in a bubble, surrounded only by admirers and yes-men, and honestly doesn’t have a clue why people wouldn’t like him.

You know who creates an enemy list? Someone so caught up in themselves, they truly believe they do no wrong. And a symptom of that is looking for superficial excuses for the public’s scorn. We know LeBron thinks, in his heart of hearts, that anyone bashing him is just a hater, someone petty or jealous who can’t possibly have legitimate reasons. Now, perhaps, we know he’s willing to chalk some of the hate up to racism. 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 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.

Exactly. The overwhelming majority of the anti-LeBron sentiments that took over the airwaves during the summer come from the fact that LeBron acted like a jerk, not because he’s black. It’s how he handled himself and his free-agency situation. If people hated LeBron because of his skin color, then his Q rating would have way been lower to start with. Right? And I would also like to point out that the same people who are criticizing LeBron-sports writers, Charles Barkley, other retired NBA players-always lift up Michael Jordan and/or Kobe Bryant as people who wouldn’t stoop to such a level as to have an hour-long reality show to announce their free-agency decision. Speaking of Kobe Bryant, did you know that he actually more disliked in terms of Q rating than LeBron?

In summary, there’s sports hate and then there’s hate hate. In sports, I think hating a guy means that they are so good that you don’t want to see them play your team. Kobe Bryant for example. As a San Antonio Spurs fan, I hate seeing Kobe Bryant in the playoffs. I’m always against the Lakers because Kobe is so good and has won so much. New York Knicks fans hated Reggie Miller because he was so good in clutch moments against them in the playoffs and Reggie relished it. Lakers fans hated Larry Bird and Celtics fans hated Magic Johnson because they knew that both guys could take over a game at any moment. Everybody except for Chicago Bulls (and Washington Wizards) fans hated Michael Jordan. I think it’s more respect (in an odd sort of way) for what the player is capable of doing on the court. And then there’s hate hate, where you hate someone blindly for their ideals or their skin color. I don’t think that’s the case here. People dislike LeBron more because of his self-absorbed attitude, his lack of grace, and the fact that he’s now playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. That’s just how it is in sports.

What do you think about all this? Does it matter? Is LeBron right? Am I close-minded? (Hopefully I don’t come off like that) React!

Q Score reveals Kobe Bryant slightly more disliked than LeBron James (L.A. Times Lakers Blog)
LeBron Says The Backlash Against Him Had “A Race Factor” (Deadspin)
LeBron James and black protectionism (ESPN)
LeBron James: Race a Factor in Post-’Decision’ Backlash (SLAM Online)
Sports Q

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