LeBron James didn’t gain any fans with “The Decision.”
It might seem like distant history but the post-decision animus was real. Charred Cavaliers jerseys, accusations of “cowardly betrayal” by a scorned owner and the LeFraud nickname all followed LeBron when he took his talents to South Beach a decade ago. It wasn’t just hurt Cavs fans either; boos rained down on the Heat at nearly every arena outside of Miami.
While the bold proclamations of “not one, not two, not three” surely diminished the Heatles’ likability, JJ Redick shared a rather intriguing take on why LeBron and subsequently Kevin Durant’s respective free agency decisions elicited so much vitriol.
“People were uncomfortable with powerful Black men making a decision for themselves,” Redick told Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks. “ … And that goes back to systemic racism in our society.”
Rooks then took it a step further.
“I think that really speaks in a lot of ways to sports in general, which is, it’s a lot of Black people making decisions and a lot of white people telling them why that decision maybe was right or wrong,” she added.
Both have a point. Redick’s thinking appeared to be shaped by the lack of agency often afforded to Black bodies, a mindset birthed from the dehumanization of slaves. That warped perception even extends to sports where Black athletes are expected to perform to the best of their ability and be unequivocally loyal. Anything else is seen as rebellious.
Rooks, on the other hand, appears to focus on the racial disparities in the sports world. The NBA is about 74.8-percent African-American yet more than 65% of decision-makers in the front office are white, according to the latest data from the The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. Similarly, a 2018 TIDES report found that more than 80% of sports reporters and columnists are white.
As the comments under the video would suggest, many viewed Redick and Rooks’ comments as an indictment on everyone who took issue with LeBron’s decision. Those same people posited that race has nothing to do with the hate LeBron received, some justifying their thinking with the phrase “he took the easy way out.” Though a somewhat valid criticism, it totally overlooks the three-time champion’s place as a Black man in America and this country’s history of viewing people who look like him as threats.
Redick, as white man who spent the past 14 years playing sport where he’s the minority, is warranted in opining that racism likely influenced some of the harsher critiques of LeBron’s decision. Acknowledging this allows even the most liberal sports fan to check their biases.
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