Thursday, September 30, 2010

'It’s Always, You Know, a Race Factor'

As if LeBron James hasn't already ruined his public image, now he's playing the race card. No doubt this will be well received in Cleveland.
As if on cue, LeBron James and his dunce of a marketing agent have proclaimed that his plummeting Q Scores have something to do with race.

“It’s always, you know, a race factor,” the noted sociologist/sneaker salesman himself told CNN interviewer Soledad O’Brien.

“It definitely played a role in some of the stuff coming out of the media, things that were written for sure,” said Maverick Carter, the rising star who conceived of “The Decision.”

Carter was a 22-year-old college dropout when James gave him a gig as CEO of something called LRMR Marketing and Branding. Neither the title, nor the intervening years, nor his audiences with such luminaries as Warren Buffet and Jay-Z, have taught Carter a thing. In fact, he may have gotten stupider. Or perhaps, just more cynical.

Race had a role? Stories and columns were race-based, or somehow racist?

Again: “For sure.”

For real?

Prove it. Go ahead. Show me. Show the world. Which things that were written? By whom? Why? How are they about race?

You want to bring race into this? Fine. Just the same, introducing it at this point in the story – and now I can’t help but wonder how long before someone invokes the “million dollar slave” cliché? – obligates James and Carter to provide a bill of particulars.

Short of that improbable development, the theme of this story doesn’t change. It only intensifies. Now more than ever, this is about arrogance, or rather, a particular form of hubris found in rich, young stars.

You see it in entertainment. You see it in sports. You see it, of course, in every race, creed and color. The problem is fame and wealth of a degree that leaves a young person hopelessly out of touch. It happened to Mike Tyson. It happened to Lindsey Lohan. It’s happening to LeBron James.
Here you have a manchild who we all thought was far more mature beyond his years, a savvy entrepreneur who know how to sell himself on Madison Avenue. He'll still sell, perhaps, but his target audience is shrinking by the day. Nonsense like this doesn't sell with people who aren't racists, those people who shell out top dollar to go see spoiled athletes play their games while richly rewarded.

James has more money than he can ever spend, but he doesn't have the slightest bit of class and decency. If he thought he would be facing hostile crowds on the road this year, he likely has no idea what's now in store. He'd be wise to shut up and play, then reconsider who's representing him.
“The Decision” instantaneously transformed him into a bad guy. Now, the more he tries to justify it, the more the trouble he causes himself. He doesn’t like playing the heel, but he can’t stop.

The introduction of race is merely the latest and crudest attempt to deflect the greatest backlash in American sports. Pretty much everyone but James and Carter could see it coming, a reaction in proportion to the hype.

I don’t know of anyone – certainly no one outside Ohio – who had a real beef with James leaving the Cavaliers or exercising his rights as a free agent. But don’t play hometown hero, and expect people to applaud when you leave. And don’t jerk them around.