As a social commentator, LeBron James is a helluva basketball player.
Is there a white athlete as famous and impactful as King James? Remember, LeBron is closing in on being a billionaire, will star in the remake of "Space Jam" and has more than 100 million combined followers on Twitter and Instagram.
He was the face of the NBA radio silence when questions arose about the league's partnership with China and the social injustices there, and his energetic and Speedy Gonzalez-esque "Taco Tuesday" impression is always cringe-worthy.
But he's LeBron, no less than the second-biggest one-name American sports star behind Tiger.
On Wednesday — to his 50 million Twitter followers, mind you — LeBron posted a photo of a Columbus, Ohio, police officer who fatally shot 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryan with the words "You're next. #Accountability."
He deleted the tweet, but his follow-ups continued to dig into the abyss. He even back-pedaled with "This is bigger than one officer," which is the exact opposite of the original, inflammatory statement. And he eventually offered a side-step version of the "Sorry you got upset" song-and-dance commonplace in the hubris-filled, humility-lacking world of A-listers.
But the damage was done (you can imagine, if this case goes to court, that every potential juror in the voir dire process is going to have to answer whether they follow LeBron on social media).
Does his tweet call for violence directly? No.
Does it potentially compromise the justice process for this officer? You bet.
Does it reveal that race matters more than facts to LeBron? Absolutely.
Look, the entire country was watching with hopes of justice for a peaceful conclusion after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all counts in the death of George Floyd last year.
No one supports cop-on-civilian — Black, white, Hispanic, whatever — violence. No one.
The body camera footage from the officer James called out — evidence that will help the pursuit of justice in the Ohio case — offers perspective.
The officer was responding to a chaotic situation involving the teen, who had a knife and appeared to be moving toward someone else.
After calls from the officer to "get down" were ignored, the cop fired four shots, and the victim crumpled. She died later at a hospital.
Loss of life in every shooting is horrific. But for a nanosecond, let's review the lose-lose options when a knife-wielding person refuses to follow the officer's call to stop:
A) Shoot the individual with the knife and get villainized by the biggest American sports celebrity and countless others;
B) Be the white cop on the scene who did not shoot and allow a Black-on-Black attempted murder to continue.
Understandably, police organizations everywhere have been outraged. Here is the response from the Fraternal Order of Police: "@KingJames, with his vast resources & influence, should educate himself and, frankly, has a responsibility to do so, on the facts before weighing in. This is disgraceful & extremely reckless. The officer saved a young girl's life. No amount of gaslighting will change that fact."
I hope justice will be done in this case, as in every case. I want to trust that justice will be done in this case, as in every case.
But I also believe LeBron James, at the very least, just made finding real justice in this case infinitely harder.
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com.