Powerful words, and not in a good way
That was disappointing.
OK, for those of you who have been here more than a time or two, well, you know I have been a long-standing fan boy of LeBron James.
Loved his skill set. Marveled at his unselfishness on the court and the way he played the game in an AAU-ized version of the sport I grew up loving. Drawn to his all-time potential I have long offered that LeBron > MJ in every category other than titles.
He was appointment TV for me, as much as any athlete of the last two decades not named Tiger or the Auburn Tigers.
And his Tweets Wednesday afternoon, well, while I am certainly going to 'parse' my words carefully, let's just leave it here:
As a social commentator, LeBron James is a helluva basketball player.
I almost always try to shun the whataboutism view point and the all-too-frequently-used comparisons as buffers and deflectors. In this case, there are not even any that apply, because is there a white athlete as famous and impactful as King James?
So forget the 'What about' angles and even LeBron's inflammatory past in the conversation of race.
Wednesday — to his 50 million Twitter followers mind you — LeBron posted the photo of the Columbus, Ohio police officer who shot a Ma'Khia Bryan with the words "You're next. #Accountability."
Wow. We'll get back to his Tweet in a moment.
Does his Tweet call for violence directly? No.
Does it all-but bastardize the justice process for this officer? You betcha.
Does it show that race more than facts matter to LeBron? Absolutely.
The body camera footage from this officer — something that will help the pursuit of justice greatly in this case, and something that we should make mandatory (but that does not converge with defunding police departments) — offers a lot of perspective in this instance.
(Side note: One of the really dangerous parts of the rallying cry of defunding the police is that the measures most experts point to in an effort to improve our policing policies will require more funds rather than less. More cameras — heck mandatory cameras — would be a great start. In fact, as LeBron tries to dig his way out of this, how noble a goal would it be for all the athletes — especially the ones like LeBron that are closer to $1 billion in the bank than $1 million — who rightly are calling for change to start a movement to get every cop a body camera? Compare that to LeBron's political efforts last election season in which he picked up the checks and the fines for convicted felons to get them eligible to vote in Florida in the 2020 presidential election, which certainly could be seen as vote-buying for the very anti-Trump celebrities like LeBron that funded it.)
Caveat here: No one wants cop-on-civilian — Black, white, polka-dotted or whatever — violence. No one.
As for the body cam, well, it shows the officer that has become the next poster boy in this national issue thanks to LeBron's social media post called to the victim, who was armed with a knife and looked to try to stab multiple other Blacks who were at the scene.
After the calls were ignored, the cop fired four shots and the victim crumpled and died at the hospital. Loss of life in every shooting is awful, especially when trained police — who again, we should expect more from — are involved.
But for a small second, can we review the lose-lose options when this knife-wielding woman refused to follow the officer's call to stop:
A) Shoot the woman with the knife and get posterized by the biggest American sports celebrity and countless others;
B) Be the white cop on the scene who did not shoot and allowed a Black-on-Black attempted murder 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."
If there is malfeasance on the officer's part, I hope justice is done. But I also believe LeBron James, at the very least, just made finding real justice in this case infinitely harder.
As for the Tweet...
Equal treatment from the media? Ha.
Until the final segment discussion, LeBron's Tweet was only mentioned at the mid-hour reset of the ESPN morning show that will remain nameless, and then it was codified and mentioned behind Steph Curry's 30-point streak ending as the Warriors lost to the Celtics.
Even then, the ESPN morning trio teased the discussion as what Brett Favre and LeBron James have in common. (Here's a hint: It's not the number of Twitter followers — Favre has 345.5K; James has 49.6 million.) And while we are here, while admitting that 'every letter is so important' the ESPN host cleaned up LeBron's scattered and unclear language. Because, hey ESPN needs LeBron.)
The ESPN's host's cohost — a very outspoken former athlete — said certain networks keep fanning flames. Some would say ESPN proper falls into that category, but only when the narrative suits them.
By comparison, the national ESPN morning radio show spent more time talking about the Knicks with Turtle from Entourage than discussing LeBron. (And yes, that previous sentence feels like a possible sarcastic thought from the comic recesses of my brain. Alas, it's not.)
At 7:30 Thursday morning on Yahoo.com, LeBron's Tweet was the 25th headline, behind two versions of CNN's Don Lemon calling out Tucker Carlson in the Great American Gasbag Race, Kate Hudson's toned abs, Brian Scalabrine, something from Storage Wars, several ads, how much racism Todd Bridges faced during his time as Arnold Jackson's big brother in 'Different Strokes' and the all-but-mandatory J-Lo and A-Rod story.
As for the Tweet, even Twitter tried to gloss the details of James' egregious mistake. Here's what it said as James was trending for the last 18-plus hours: "Lakers forward LeBron James says he deleted a Tweet referencing a Columbus police officer who fatally shot 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant because it was 'being used to create more hate.'
Let's look at the Tweets, and as we discussed yesterday, words matter. So does impact, and who has more impact than LeBron in American society? A Kardashian maybe? Oprah? (And yes, that says as much about the American masses as it does anything about the celebrities.)
LeBron's first Tweet: "You're next. #Accountability."
And to circle back to the impact of public discourse on crimes like this and the pursuit of justice, here's betting that the framers of our justice system were not ready for "Do you follow LeBron on social media" to be a meaningful question in the voir dire process.
OK, after the immediate and harsh blowback, LeBron deleted said Tweet and posted this: "I'm so damn tired of seeing Black people killed by police. I took the tweet down because its being used to create more hate -This isn't about one officer. it's about the entire system and they always use our words to create more racism. I am so desperate for more ACCOUNTABILITY"
Lots to unpack here. We all should be tired of seeing Black people killed by police. But, again from the officer's body cam, this was a police officer trying to protect a Black person from Black-on-Black crime. And while we should all demand better from the police, I'm sure LeBron is tired of Black on Black crime too. And taking the "tweet down because its being used to create more hate" is spin blaming. It's the "I'm sorry you were offended by what I said or did" apology.
And to say "This isn't about one officer" is disingenuous at best and a down right CYA of the highest magnitude when you made it entirely about one officer — an officer you likely owe an apology to, to be honest — with his picture and the word "You're" in the original Tweet.
What is anyone supposed to use, LeBron, but your words? And when you get to your status — his platform, talents and reach have created a multi-billion-dollar operation that is Team LeBron — you have a greater responsibility to measure those words and that influence. In fact, of all the things that could be found offensive, right behind the original intent of this Tweet — which in my opinion was an uninformed attempt to put that officer on blast and, whether intentionally or not, very well could be a pre-emptive attempt to create a justice vacuum and influence the pursuit of justice against a white officer — LeBron's refusal to apologize for a misguided Tweet and spin it into the 'Racism' vortex is the most egregious, in my opinion.
Then finally this one, which I will post as LeBron did as opposed to revising it like the host at the World Wide Leader did: "ANGER does any of us any good and that includes myself! Gathering all the facts and educating does though! My anger still is here for what happened that lil girl. My sympathy for her family and may justice prevail!" There were a slew of emojis after it, but since I'm not a middle schooler, my emoji game is extremely lacking.
A disappointing chain of events to be sure, especially for those of us who used to be LeBron fans
(Side note: Chas, I'm not calling for LeBron to be cancelled. And that cry would fall on deaf ears, because with great skills come a forever-wide margin of forgiveness and second-chances. It's why with great power comes greater responsibility. I'm simply saying that LeBron's actions have altered the way I personally view him and how I rooted for him as a fan.)
Whether the NFL planned it or not — and the league has exquisite timing in such matter — Wednesday was a perfect day to release some rule changes.
Not that the NFL's new guidelines for the 2021 season are all tat controversial, but as we are a week from the Draft — I love the draft; you know this — this is the perfect time to offer them out and then spin the news cycle forward.
And that was before LeBron took to social media.
The league is loosening its restrictions on numbers, and will allow RBs, WRs, TEs, LBs and Abs can wear single digits. Of course to this I say, what about the D-Linemen, because I love a nasty, 300-pound dude like Derrick Brown rocking a 5 jersey. Boss.
The league, in an effort to make the onside kick more recoverable for the kicking team, has mandated that the receiving team can only have nine players in the zone that is 10-to-25 yards from the kick. This rule is being viewed as an experiment and must be reviewed after the 2021 season.
As for the more controversial, the league rejected the full-time sky judge replay avenue but did expand the influence of replay officials.
There are more here. I'm about worded out this morning.
This and that
— You know the rules. Here's Paschall's prose in a really fun look at UT newcomer (and old-timer) Byron Young.
— Braves played. Braves won. Side note: While my interest in the ATL baseball club wanes greatly when Ronald Acuña is not in the lineup, that Ian Anderson has some electric stuff.
— Wow. OK, so the University of Texas will have two marching bands in 2022. The Longhorn Band will still be required to play "The Eyes of Texas" while a second marching band that will not perform at major university events or have required songs will be formed. Somehow this does not feel like progress.
— OK, Manhattan is going to stop prosecuting prostitution. Wow.
Let's start a random Thursday here: The Oscars are Sunday. What was the best new release movie you saw this year? Secondly, did you stream or purchase a new-release movie in the last 12 months?
Feel free to weigh in on King James.
As for the NFL rules, big-picture Thursday offers this question: What one NFL rule would you change right now?
As for today, Happy Earth Day everybody.
April 22 is also Jack Nicholson's 84th birthday. I am certain we have done his Rushmore. What a catalog.
On this day 45 years ago, Barbara Waters became the first female highly news network anchor. Who else is on the female news anchor Rushmore?
Go and remember the mailbag.