Thursday, October 28, 2010

9 comments Scoop Jackson Stands Up For LeBron James

I have been holding onto this article for a while because it deals with the subject of race and sports. That's a subject I don't normally like to discuss because it tends to be a no-win discussion. I've made a slight exception today, but only because it is talking about race in the larger context of sports and because I feel the need to ramble about this issue. Scoop Jackson believes it is partially race that has caused fans to turn against LeBron James.

I look at it a different way. I am a sports fan, I don't care what color an athlete is or what he looks like. I hate players and teams simply for daring to exist in the same division or conference as my favorite teams and any reason I get to further dislike them I jump on. Let's say I hate Mike Vick. He dared to play for the Falcons who played well against the Panthers. I have a grudge against him for this sole reason, but now the dislike is kind of gone because he plays for the Eagles and isn't in the same division as the Panthers. I hated Keith Brooking (who hates him other than me? Probably no one.) because he played for the Falcons and I could not stand any Buccaneers player for a long while, specifically any Gramatica brother. I'm rambling, but LeBron played for the Cavs and they compete with my favorite NBA team. I don't like LeBron because of this, so when he left Cleveland for Miami to form a "super team" with Wade and Bosh, it gave me more reason to dislike LeBron on many different levels. I could dislike his decision to team up with other great players and form a championship or I could dislike the fact the Heat now have a good team and are in the Eastern Conference. I don't do this because he is black, but for purely sports reasons.

I understand the marketing aspect of sports. I don't understand outside of marketing why athletes have to be liked or have a high Q score. Does LeBron really care that he is hated? Should it matter to him? Why is it bad that people hate him? Part of sports is having players and teams that you hate no matter what...or until they play on your favorite team. This may go back to the whole "fans are more engaged in the competition part of sports as compared to athletes" issue, but LeBron's Q score may be taking a nose dive and I know that affects his marketing aspirations, but being hated is a part of sports. People may just hate him because he is successful and is probably going to be more successful in the future with the Heat. He's competition now for my favorite NBA team and I have to dislike him, Wade, and Bosh for that for the same reasons I will greatly dislike any good team in the Eastern Conference.

Maybe LeBron is disliked for racist reasons, not for me personally, but I am sure this is true for some. Rather than blame race completely though, maybe he is hated simply because he is one of the best players in the NBA and will play for a successful team this year. I'm rambling basically I think the hatred for LeBron is being blamed too much on race by Scoop.

Seems like even when there's not a race issue there is a race issue in this country.

Or one created. I'm not saying there isn't an issue of race here, but LeBron being hated is much why some people hate the Yankees. Sports fans can greatly dislike the idea of a "super team" being built that is better than other teams. Falling back on the race issue is kind of lazy sometimes. LeBron is not in my good graces because he is a major competitor for my favorite team.

LeBron has not reached the Jordan/Oprah/Michael Jackson/Tiger Woods/Barack Obama (pre-Presidency) level of identification in which people do not think about his color, race or ethnicity when identifying with him.

This is a lie. How many jokes have been told over the years about Michael Jackson not being "black enough" along with jokes about his skin? Any discussion about Michael Jackson always ended up talking about his race in one form or another. All anyone could talk about Barack Obama before he was President is that he was black Presidential candidate. The reason many people don't think about Tiger Woods' race all the time is because even he doesn't define it.

Yet someone has to say what LeBron couldn't.

And as prophesied in the Bible and Koran, Scoop Jackson is that man.

When speaking to CNN last week about the role race has played in the overall reaction (nothing else) to his post-Cavaliers life, LeBron did nothing more than acknowledge the undercurrent to how he went from love to hate in the eyes of the public faster than any athlete in recent history who didn't break a law or a marriage vow.

Here is the issue I have with LeBron's comments and Scoop Jackson's followup...they both take one part of the possible explanation behind the some of the public's reaction and try to turn it into THE reason for the public's reaction. I don't think LeBron lost any fans, the fans who never really liked him when he was on the Cavs finally had something to bitch point to and say, "that's why this guy is an asshole. I always knew it." Some of the hate comes from jealousy and some of it comes from the fact LeBron James now plays for the "it" team in the NBA. I don't believe a large part of any of the reaction is because James is black.

Let's also please remember that the sports media shapes the discussions in this country. So LeBron's interpretation of how people don't like him comes partially from the media. He's read the reactionary and judgmental crap the media has written about him going to Miami and may believe this represents sports fans as a whole. Sports fans are really a different matter. If you believed the media, then Brett Favre would be beloved and the only two teams that have a shot at the NBA Title this year are Los Angeles and Miami. So while the media is shaping the discussions in this country, they are also shaping how players are perceived to be viewed by the public.

In almost every black person's life -- and most will tell you this -- there comes a time when we are reminded of who we are; more importantly, when we're reminded of the color of our skin. It's our gut check.

Like most bloggers, I am white. Pale white to where you can see through my skin. I don't pretend to speak for African Americans or any other race, religion or creed. I don't like it when people assume they know what I am thinking, which is part of what irritates me so much about Scoop Jackson. He assumes part of the reason I don't like LeBron James' decision to go Miami is because he is black, which isn't the truth. I don't like LeBron James because he plays on a competitive team in the Eastern Conference. I also don't like LeBron James because he is too good at basketball and his skill could affect my favorite team from winning the NBA Title this year. End of story.

It's not like moments of realizing who you are can be exclusive to one certain race. From my point of view, there are times when I am reminded of who I am, more importantly I am reminded of the color of my skin. This happens TO EVERY PERSON no matter what color their skin is. I was picked near to last in gym class in the 8th grade when splitting up basketball teams because I was a skinny white kid and the gym teacher put the two football players (who knew nothing about basketball or how to choose a team) as the captains. When time came around for new teams to be chosen later, I got picked much earlier, but it was assumed because I was skinny and white I couldn't play basketball. There are tons of sad stories where we can all feel bad for ourselves from everyone like this about when they have been reminded who they are. Some are obviously more severe than others, but at some point we all get a gut check with reality.

LeBron James was just reminded. The extreme nature of how many people responded to his "decision" and the way he handled it was his personal and professional gut check.

But this wasn't necessarily race driven. There are a number of reasons a person could have responded to LeBron's decision negatively. I think it is unfair to pigeonhole emotional sports fans like this.

The problem many people seem to have with that, in LeBron's mind, is not that he was reminded he is African-American, but that he had the audacity to acknowledge it.

This is exactly what I am talking about. Scoop can tell everyone who will listen that there are things LeBron James is going through that we can never understand, so don't try. Then he proceeds to tell everyone who has a thought on how they feel about LeBron leaving Cleveland exactly why they feel that way. Scoop won't let you think you know LeBron or why he went to Miami to play for the Heat, but Scoop feels free to think he knows you.

Does race play a role in why Eminem has sold more records and is more popular than Jay-Z? Did race have anything to do with the response to the people and areas affected by Hurricane Katrina?

I don't want to sound insensitive but...I understand the disaster that Hurricane Katrina was and I don't want to directly compare it to another natural disaster, but what about Nashville? Did race or the location of the state of Tennessee have anything to do with the lack of attention by the media and the government? Who really knows? It could be a valid question. Doesn't race or the area of the country where the natural disaster affect the response ANYTIME there is a natural disaster?

It all depends on who's being asked and who is answering.

This time, LeBron answered.

Which is fine, but it doesn't mean his perspective is the truth.

The best recent close-to-fair comparison that can be used to prove that race probably is a factor in all of this? Brett Favre. Favre has moved from team to team and kept the public in the dark about his status much more often and just as dramatically and significantly as LeBron did this one time.

Other than I read this article before I wrote about it, how did I know Scoop would bring up Brett Favre as an example of how white players are treated? I hate Brett Favre. Many, many people I know hate Brett Favre. This is a great example of a player whose reputation and his public persona are very much shaped by the media. I know very few people who like Favre, yet he seems as popular as ever. I can't explain it.

Favre feuds with his coach, takes the time to tell everyone how injured he is, doesn't accept responsibility or criticism for his mistakes and has generally put himself over the team. Why people like him, I don't know, but I don't think it has anything to do with the fact he is white, but has more to do with the fact he is a master at making people feel bad for him and like him.

Even using the Q Score as a barometer, Favre never took a hit equal or close to LeBron's.

And while confirming Favre's hold on popularity -- he was the 13th most popular figure in sports earlier this year in the company's research -- Schafer went on to say, "Based on our data, I think it's fair to say that [American sports fans] may be sick of the waffling, but not sick of him."

I don't know if using one of using Brett Favre as an example for why Americans are racist is a very good example. I am not sure anyone has an idea of why Brett Favre is so popular, other than there is a segment of the population that loves him. I don't think this comparison proves anything.

James, on the other hand, went from being one of the most popular and loved athletes alive to one of the most disliked in a matter of months.

As I stated several times above, I think this is a reaction to James joining up with a dominant team that is seen as having taken a shortcut to win a championship. Again, the same reason some people hate the Yankees is the reason these same people will dislike LeBron James.

After LeBron had made "The Decision," the Q score Wade and Bosh also took a dive. Wade's positive Q score went from 21 in January 2010 to 15 in September 2010 and his negative Q score went from 18 to 25. Bosh's positive Q score went from 13 to 12 and his negative Q score went from 21 to 35. I am sure Scoop would use this as further proof James, Bosh, and Wade are being persecuted by the racist public and media, but I see it as being a sign that many people view the act of these three players on the same team in a negative light, regardless of skin color. It could be seen that the public didn't like these three guys teaming up on the Heat and that, not skin color, was the reason their Q score went down.

If so, cool. But on the surface, on the basis of similar popularity and behavior, Favre and James are Siamese. Reflective images. Yet, somehow, LeBron's "behavior" was less acceptable than Brett's. While Favre's "waffling" is tolerated, James' decisiveness is unacceptable.

I can't explain the public's infatuation with Favre, though I don't think it has to do with race, but here are three reasons that may explain the difference in how James and Favre have been treated:

1. Part of the difference is that Favre has played in the NFL for nearly 20 years and is 40 years old, while James is 25 years old and hasn't been in the NBA for 10 years yet. Favre is older than James, so he has more history of goodwill with the public. Not with me of course, but with the public. Favre had been with the Packers so long and had pretty much done everything he could for the team, while James had been with the Cavs for a while, but not long enough to reach any of the goals the city expected of the team.

2. Favre left Green Bay when they already had a great quarterback and when he left he used his unique ability to play the martyr as a way to convince the public he was the one that was done wrong in nearly every situation. Favre's a magician. He can make the media feel bad for second guessing an interception he threw. Green Bay wasn't a terrible team after he left, they had Aaron Rodgers, and many people feel like Favre was done wrong by the Packers management. LeBron James left the city of Cleveland, which happens to be the state he was born in and played high school basketball in. LeBron James has had ties to Ohio his entire life and he left the team with very little talent on the roster. Favre wasn't a hometown hero like James was. Favre didn't leave on his own accord (though I think this is very arguable), while James did.

3. Favre was threatening to retire, while James was forming a dream team. If Scoop can't tell the difference in these two actions then I don't know what to tell him. The perception of Favre is that he can't decide whether to retire or not and many fans who don't like Favre don't want him to retire because they enjoy watching him play. The perception of James is that he left his lifelong home to chase a championship in Miami. It's the equivalent of selling out to many people. He left Ohio for the alcohol and sun-drenched streets of Miami to play with two other great NBA players. Not only was James turning his back on the state that loved him, his teammates the franchise worked hard (and unsuccessfully) to put around him, but he is going to a party city to join his top competition rather than compete AGAINST his top competition.

Bottom line is that many people can understand a struggle to do a job they love versus spend more time with their family, as opposed to relating to being a unique talent and joining the exact players on a quest for an NBA title you are supposed to be competing against for an NBA title. The situations each found themselves in are different and so was the public's reaction.

Because if race isn't one of the factors in why the reaction has been so extremely different between one non-white athlete (James) and one white athlete (Favre), then what is?

I wish Scoop would at least acknowledge the situations each athlete found themselves in are different. It's like he does whatever he can to make the deep connection to race in order to explain the difference.

And if LeBron is unable to answer a simple question about his feelings on whether race is a factor in his case without being vilified publicly (again), then where does the real racism reside? In his answer or in the response to it?

Whatever. Part of the public's reaction being negative towards James' comments was that the public doesn't like our thoughts and words presented to us by an athlete pretending to know us. It's fine if James believes that, but his feelings on the subject doesn't make it the truth. Simply because racism exists doesn't mean that was the reason behind the public's reaction to LeBron's "Decision."

It's unfair for LeBron to generalize everyone who has an opinion on this subject in this way. Sexism also exists but that isn't the reason few sports fans watch WNBA games. It's unfair to say "it's always a race factor" and hide behind how absolutely poorly the decision to leave Cleveland was handled so he can paint the media and public as racist.

Of course after he said the comments, James didn't want to talk about them too much more. So James wants to make the decision to go to Miami, hide behind racism as being why the fans don't like him, say he believes this to be the reason in an interview and then elaborate no further. As I said, I am sure racism played a part in some people's opinion of him, but I think this was a small minority. Many other people never liked LeBron or didn't like this decision to go to the Heat overall and dislike him based on that.

The recent extreme reaction to LeBron's CNN interview does more to validate his belief than any survey taken to measure someone's appeal.

This statement could not be further from the truth. LeBron James has given his opinion and now because the public and media disagrees with this opinion, it just further proves how racist everyone is? So basically agree with LeBron James the negative reaction to his move to Miami was based on race or it just proves how racist you are. That's a very tyrannical way of thinking.

Because it is not extreme to make a blanket statement to explain the public's reaction to an event. I know this would never occur to Scoop while he is on his soapbox, but maybe even more than people not liking LeBron James going to Miami to play for the Heat, people don't like to be accused of being racist. I know that sounds crazy, but James essentially believes he knows more about the true feelings of the media and public better than they do.

Or is this a column about America?

When it comes to race and sports in this country, there seems to be two types of people: those who see race as an issue in damn near everything and those who don't see color at all.

Scoop Jackson has apparently been taking online courses on stereotyping because he seems to be very good at it. For a guy who doesn't like racism and putting people of a certain color in certain categories that supposedly explains everything about them, Scoop does a great job of putting anyone with an opinion on this issue in two simple categories that supposedly explains everything about them.

Talk about taking two extreme positions on an issue...does Scoop really believe these are the only two categories of people when it comes to race and sports in this country? If so, he is an even bigger idiot than I originally thought. There's nothing like taking the nuance out of a discussion.

Of all the things LeBron James might have done wrong in the last five months, his last -- claiming that race probably has played a role in the overall reaction to his offseason activities -- to many might have been the wrongest.

Because he essentially used a charge of racism as a cover for why everyone hates him. He used racism as a shield to defend himself and rather than admit it was a poorly handled move in going to Miami by doing an hour-long special that basically massaged his ego and rubbed Cleveland's face in the mud. James can admit a little bit that the move was handled badly, but only if he can blame the public for some of the negative reaction towards his decision. I had no problem with James going to Miami if that is what he wanted to do, but it's unfair to pretend to know the reason why those who disagree with this position did so.

But that doesn't mean what he said was wrong. Nor does that mean what he meant shouldn't be heard. Or understood. Or taken into consideration.

I think it should be taken into consideration. What else should be taken into consideration that is possibly James was hiding behind race card to avoid the real reasons the media and public may not have liked his move. What are those reasons? I don't know because I can't speak for everyone. For me, I didn't hate the decision to go to Miami, but I don't like LeBron because his team is in direct competition with my favorite team. I would prefer to see him compete against Wade rather than compete with Wade.

Those people who still have a problem with LeBron claiming that race has been a factor and continues to play a role in the fallout from "The Decision" need to ask themselves this question: If LeBron were white, would he be going through the same thing?

Probably. I don't think there is any proof one way or another though.

The answer is no different than any other honest answer we should come to when situations like this occur: Yes … and no.

I like how Scoop finds the nuance in a situation when he has to prove a point, but otherwise the entire world sees racism as a problem in sports or doesn't see it at all. It's black or white, except for when it is not, and this time it is not.


rich said...

Even using the Q Score as a barometer, Favre never took a hit equal or close to LeBron's.

There's also a huge difference in retiring and coming back to a team that everyone knows you're going to and being a grade a douchebag and holding your current team hostage and announcing your plan to leave on national television.

Brett retiring and coming back didn't really hurt anyone. The Packers had already moved on to Rodgers, the Jets cut him and moved onto Sanchez. In both cases they knew what Favre was doing and planned accordingly.

LeBron didn't give Cleveland that route to go through. He gave no indication who he was going to until 5 minutes before the "interview."

That said, they're both huge douchebags.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, there were big differences in each person's situation. The biggest difference to me is the situation both teams were in. The Cavs were waiting for LeBron to make a decision while the Packers had moved on without Favre. So you are right as well about that. Favre was a douche, but I could see how people (like me) were frustrated with his indecision.

Personally, I don't like James for competitive reasons and he went to a competitive team so I don't like him because of the rivalry issue.

Part of it also is what you said, he didn't give the Cavs warning. They were at his mercy and he took advantage of it for publicity.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I think I should say a few things.

1) America is about race, and has been so since the cotton gin.

2) Race is a central mechanism in divide-and-control social engineering.

3) As such, there is very little good education about race/racist thinking, and most public discussion hits the rocks really quickly. People generally have to seek out good books on race, not just about blacks, but about NA, Latinos, Asians, etc. US was never a very white nation, and there is a ton of history that most people never have access to.

4) People are encouraged to shout down/shut down talks about race, and unsophisticated columns like what has been reviewed don't help--tho' as a black person, I don't substantially disagree with Jackson.

5) LeBron James is a horrible example. That's just background racism, of the sort every non-white and every clued-in white person tries to ignore and make forward in their lives. You want to make a full-throated hell-fire rant on racism (and set the dialogue on fire), you go after the NFL. Plenty of basic materials, even if you ignore the QB dynamics. Though QB dynamics like what's going on in MN and Philly gives plenty of juice.


Martin said...

I agree with Shah8 in that there might have been "background" racism in some of this. People inclined to think LeBron was "just another n-----" and used this as an example of it are out there, but they were not the reason for the out and out dislike of LeBron. Bill Simmons pretty much hits it with his columns about how people just hated the entire way LeBron and his people acted. They knew they weren't going back to Cleveland, so come out at the beginning and say "Thanks for the memories but I'm going to move on."

the people of Ohio might still hate him, but I know that I would dislike him far less if he had done that. It's the arrogance of how he played all this out, and his new Nike commercial runs in the same vein to me.

What do I want from you LeBron? I want you to play basketball better. Learn a post up move or two. Learn to play off the ball so that your guards are more then stand around spot up shooters. Have more to your offensive game then drive to the basket like a running back to get the layup or foul because the refs don't have the balls to call charge on you, or just let incidental contact go. Learn to be an NBA player, not just the most physicaly gifted basketball player. Emulate Jordan, Kobe, Magic, not Dominique.

Bengoodfella said...

Shah, I'm sure some of this is racism. I said that in the post, that some part of the population probably comes from a negative point of view because of that. I just don't believe it is the main reason really. I completely agree with #3. I have a hard time reading good literature on that subject.

The problem I have is that the amount we can chalk up to race is pretty small, possibly the background racism you are talking about. I didn't care too much about his move honestly. He can go wherever he wants with whoever he wants. My opinion that he is the rival of my favorite team isn't going to change b/c he was going to a team in the Eastern Conference and was going to make that team good.

I could probably get behind another example, possibly Donovan McNabb in Philly...maybe, but LeBron wasn't the best example. There is jealousy among people and sportswriters are going to take shots because he is the 1st/2nd/3rd best player in the NBA. He's good, so he will get that extreme criticism. It was a poorly executed move and those who wanted pageviews to rip James and look morally superior got their chance. It was the small guy (sportswriters) taking shots at the big guy (James). I think it made them feel good.

Martin, I think Simmons may be right about that. It was how he held out the drama I think people didn't like. Overall, I think we all sort of knew he wasn't going back to Cleveland. I just felt it in the playoffs.

It felt arrogant to me, much like how Favre's pretending to be retired three times (and running) felt incredibly arrogant to me. The comparison to Favre was not good in my opinion and I think there was more than racism that caused the reaction. Race was a part of it, but I don't think as big of a part as Scoop believes.

FJ said...

Fantastic entry, Bengoodfella. So few people are willing to discuss race and when a person of importance in the sports world, like LeBron, uses race or racism as a weapon, the hope is that he just shuts everyone up from talking about the issue at hand.

Bengoodfella said...

FJ, thanks. There may have been some background racism (and I learned that term yesterday), but I think it was more a negative reaction to a bad PR stunt. Simply because LeBron is right about race in some cases doesn't mean he is correct in this case.

Chris W said...

It's ridiculous that Scoop brings up Favre. No two athletes in America have gone from being almost universally loved to almost universally hated as quickly and dramatically as Favre and Lebron. Favre has a few more fans who stuck by him than Lebron...but a lot of that has to do with Favre winning a championship in Green Bay. And maybe race...but that's at the microscopic level. On the national level, Lebron and Favre's trajectory was almost identical

Bengoodfella said...

Chris W, that's partially what I think too. On a microlevel there may be some racism on the part of some in the reaction to James' decision. I don't know about the Q score and how it is constructed, but I don't really know anyone but a couple of people that can stand Favre. No one likes him.

In fact, I had this discussion the other day about how James' was just annoying to team up with Wade and Bosh, but Favre is the one who is a big asshole because of just everything he has done. Most people don't like James for competitive reasons, but people don't like Favre for personal reasons. I could be wrong.