How LeBron James unmasked mass hypocrisy

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How LeBron James unmasked mass hypocrisy

by Tracy Holmes on Monday, October 4, 2010 - 3:49am

Originally published by Tracy Holmes in New American Media on September 27th, 2010. Tracy Holmes is a graduate of the Clayman Institute-The OpEd Project collaboration to foster new voices and thought leaders at Stanford. Holmes' session was sponsored by the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.


By David Shankbone, from Wikimedia Commons

All of us sports fans know that LeBron James lost cool points with the public in the controversy of the year that was “The Decision” – the one-hour live special on ESPN where he announced he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami Heat. But thanks to a recent report by The Q Scores Company, we can quantify the fallout. The published findings rate LeBron as the sixth most disliked figure in American pro sports. He shares this honor with Tiger Woods and Michael Vick. Remarkably, LeBron’s drop in positive rating has plummeted 41.5 percent since January. LeBron’s image took a phenomenal beating overnight. As far as I’m concerned, this controversy says less about LeBron than it says about us. Critics say LeBron was not loyal to his hometown team because he did not consider the economic impact of his departure. One thing everyone can agree on is that he was a free agent and had fulfilled his contract. As far as the American Dream goes, he should have the freedom to make the best choice for him and his family. Staying loyal to a city that has had a God-awful sports history might be noble in some people’s eyes, but it’s actually the “anti-American Dream.” Another criticism leveled at LeBron is that he diminished his brand--and legacy--by teaming up with two other superstars, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, who also went to the Miami Heat. They say LeBron will never go down as one of the all-time greats. Bottom line: They want him to be the next Michael Jordan, which makes sense. It’s thrilling as a sports fan to witness someone at the top of his game, the lone superstar raising his teammates’ level of play. But it’s ridiculous for us to expect a non-family member to live up to what we want them to be. That’s not to mention, LeBron always said he’s cared more about winning and less about the individual accolades. The most valid criticism I hear is that it’s not the fact that he left Cleveland as much as it was “how he did it.” “I’ll be taking my talents to South Beach,” he stated awkwardly. Certainly, folks are entitled to be critical of whatever and whomever they wish, and it would be reasonable to surmise that LeBron’s handling of the decision—at worst--made him seem immature and naïve. Many people think he had to have known it would turn out badly. However, when this gets drawn out to demonize him as a narcissistic and cowardly quitter, folks need to question what’s at the root of that bitter feeling. I contend that there was really no best way to handle the decision. Many have used the analogy of breaking up with a girlfriend through a text message to describe his public break-up with the Cavaliers. But if you extend the analogy to breaking up with someone (whom everyone agrees is no good for you) for another woman, then there cannot be a “right” way to break up. The ex-girlfriend will always be bitter, no matter how you tell her it’s over. So we can argue all we want about how LeBron should have handled it, but at the end of the day, Cleveland was going to be hurt and disappointed, no matter what. That 12 million watched “The Decision” is the largest hypocrisy of this debate. The broadcast garnered the highest ratings of any ESPN show this year, with the exception of one Monday Night Football game. That so many were eager to tune in multiplies the invalidity of crying that the show was foul and distasteful. No one had a problem watching this distasteful show, knowing ahead of time that it was declared distasteful, which means we are implicated in any accusation pointed at LeBron. But what really gets me: A point that nearly everyone scoffs at, glazes over or flat out dismisses, is the fact that the one-hour special raised $2.5 million for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and five full college scholarships. “No big deal, just a PR stunt,” you might shrug. But I don’t see many of us putting five students through college. Intolerance and hypocrisy extend to nearly every other debate that is going on in America. Everyday, the media raises issues that challenge our cultural, political, personal and moral sensibilities. We are naturally offended because we cannot relate to the other side’s point of view. Fanning the flames are pundits and radio personalities, who encourage us to jump on their bandwagons, rush to judgment and demonize the opposing side. LeBron wasn’t wrong. The way we talk about everything, including LeBron, is what’s wrong.