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[personal profile] theatokos
Let's start our morning off a hot steaming cup of -ism.

I don't follow sports super closely, I don't regularly read sports publications, though I do enjoy some sports and follow loosely. Adam follows the NBA very closely and therefore I'm somewhat up on the whole NBA and LeBron thing. I have enjoyed watching LeBron play, though I've not been a huge Cavs fan. I respect LeBron: he gives a metric fuckton of money to charities, he's never whined about his team, and seems like a nice guy. For those of you not in the NBA loop, but wanting to follow my argument: LeBron is a young man, he's played for the Cleveland Caveliers for his entire professional career, in Ohio near his hometown, and he's been talked about as if he's God's gift to basketball. Recently his contract came up as free-agent (and this I don't fully understand and probably didn't phrase that correctly, basically he can trade himself) but LeBron (LBJ, from here on out) chose not to re-sign with the Cavs but instead moved to Miami. He announced his decision on a hugely hyped tv special, in which all the proceeds (somewhere around 2.5 million dollars) went to the Boys and Girls Club of America, a charity which serves mainly poor and urban youth. LBJ's one, very tacky mistake? He hadn't told his own team about his decision before announcing it on national television.

Ok. Who cares, you're probably asking. Some jack-ass NBA player is being all arrogant about moving teams. Whoopdeedo. Well, I'd like to be a dissenting voice and break down for you why this is entirely unjustified and inaccurate. Sadly, I don't have loads of facts or links. I wanted to link to the Sports Illustrated article I read yesterday, but can't and so you'll have to trust me that I'm not making this shit up.

There are several things happening here. First, there is a confusion with pride and arrogance. Secondly, there is a lack of consistency when discussing the NBA and the claims about players. Thirdly, there is some bald-ass racism going on. People have been crying foul - oh that selfish bastard LBJ! This is an emotional claim and while I think its misdirected at LBJ the only people who are justified in getting worked up like this are the Cavs fans in Cleveland. Again, they are misdirecting their anger, but they're the only ones with the emotional investment to warrant such wailing. It's especially disgusting when I read legitimate sports journalism perpetuating this nonsense.

Pride and arrogance are not the same thing. Pride is a good thing. We need pride in our work, efforts and selves to feel confident, to pursue our work when the going gets tough, to stand up for ourselves and our beliefs. Arrogance is rubbing it in people's faces, claiming to be better than everyone else, and making people feel smaller. When we all have pride in our work/efforts/selves, we all win, because there's enough pride to go around; we value everyone's efforts where they're at. When we're arrogant, it's a zero sum game with only one king of the hill winner. These are very different concepts but Americans (and maybe the British too, I think) don't have a grasp of the difference. LBJ is being told off for being arrogant, when really he's just taking pride in his work, skills, and using his fame to help others.

But let's break this down even further. In a sport composed of mainly young black men there is a generation of players who seem to be giving the stereotype of young black men as violent, ignorant, and playas the heave-ho. I have long been impressed with Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat player) and LBJ for always being gracious and articulate in their press conferences, for striving to be team players, for basically not being involved in any scandals (I'm sure they're not perfect). Sure, this is like congratulating someone for not being an asshole. Personally, I'm just always thrilled to hear gracious, articulate speakers - it seems rare in any profession, and dreadfully so in sports. Claims that LBJ is being selfish by leaving the Cavs - if he was really loyal and a team player he'd stick with his team through thick and thin - and that he's a failure as a basketball star because he's not winning championships on his own, like Larry Bird and Michael Jordan did are complete nonsense. and yet are the two most prevalent in the media that I've read. These criticisms are full of shit.

If the Cavs had been serious about winning championships the team owner would have built a team that could help LBJ win. Basketball is a team sport and no one wins 'all by themselves.' As Adam has pointed out to me, all the greats had other really good teammates to help them win. Larry Bird and Michael Jordan had other all-star players to support their awesomeness. LBJ had none. The fact that he stuck out his contract - he didn't demand a trade, he never publicly bad mouthed his team or owners, or laid blame on anyone - speaks volumes about exactly the what kind of team player LBJ is. LBJ, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade are all taking paycuts to play on a team where they can have fun, win championships as a team, and are wanted by the coaching and ownership teams. Isn't this what we all want professionally? To be wanted, have fun doing our jobs, have great colleagues, and have the support to do our best work? Why is this demonized in basketball players when millions of Americans make employment decisions based on these same criteria?

What this whole hullabaloo boils down to is straight up racism. LBJ is a young, black man who is taking initiative. Lil' black boy is stepping out of line. A team player is one who does the team owner's bidding. I will try to stay away from hyperbolic slavery metaphors, but perhaps you'll see it for yourself. Team owners own their players, buy them, trade them at will, etc. Once again, the majority of NBA players are young black men and the majority of team owners are white (in fact, Michael Jordan is the only black majority-owner of an NBA team, and according to Adam this happened only last year). So why are people so up in arms that LBJ, a scandal-free and indisputably gifted player, has moved teams? He sold himself. He has up-ended the 'way it is.' He defies the stereotypes of black men: he's not selling or being caught with drugs, he's not taking up with prostitutes, he's not beating people up, he's not inarticulately spewing nonsense in press conferences. He's articulately leaving one team for another of his choice and own volition. It's not about the money. It's about personal integrity.

LBJ -and all the black NBA players- are damned if they do, damned if they don't. If they live out the stereotypes of young black men, sports writers and watchers can shake their finger, but will gladly let them go on. But for a player to take the power and privilege that is given him and to further his own goals of being a team player and winning (the two things that basketball is all about), well, what a selfish fucking bastard.

Black boy better get back in line and do as he's told.

Date: 2010-08-06 12:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
All I know is he's saving *millions* in taxes by moving to Miami.

Date: 2010-08-06 12:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Interesting, I had not heard this. However, this truly does seem to be the least of the reasons to move, as far as all the other rhetoric goes, and from what he's consistently said.

However, it is wise to cast a jaundiced eye when money of this magnitude is involved. It's hard to relate, right?

Date: 2010-08-06 12:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I totally support his decision to move. If that much money were at stake, I'd move too.

Date: 2010-08-06 01:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
While I'm sure finances played some role, I would be highly surprised if money was the big concern. Some one who has spent his entire life geared for the NBA - eating, breathing, living basketball - probably actually loves the game too. At least, I sure hope so!

Date: 2010-08-06 12:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Is that wrong of him, though?

It's not like he was serving Cleveland by representing them in the senate (, like some thrify folks are :)

Date: 2010-08-06 12:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Good point. A lot of people make it sound like LeBron was *obligated* to Cleveland. Well, no. It's business. When team owners change coaches and players it's to increase wins and profits. So why is wrong if a player makes the same decision? It's a professional sport, which means money is involved.

The rhetoric around LeBron blows my mind.

Date: 2010-08-06 12:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Not in the least. G-dwilling, I should one day have such a problem, I would totally consider moving - I live in one of the highest taxed areas in the US.

Date: 2010-08-06 12:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My husband is from New York and when he first moved here, he complained all the time about Massachusetts-- until we looked into moving back to NY and realized our tax burden would, like, double or triple. My in-laws pay federal, state, and county income taxes, local and county property taxes, a higher sales tax than we do, and "school" taxes (whereas here the schools are paid with regular property taxes). We were like, "Uh"

Date: 2010-08-06 01:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I live in Manhattan, so we pay a city tax as well. It's pretty much insane.
EDIT: Insane isn't the right word. This is the most highly taxed place in the nation, but it's also the most highly serviced place in the nation. Almost a quarter of the population is on Welfare and probably 10% of students receive special services through the schoolboard.
Edited Date: 2010-08-06 01:20 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-08-06 12:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When you make posts like this, I wish LJ had a "like" button-- how dare they make me actually type out a comment expressing agreement?

A lot of the sports ( shows ( I hear while driving have come to the same conclusion. Whatever Cleveland did for LeBron James financially and recognition-wise, LeBron James did as much as if not more for Cleveland.

You may also want to start being a fan of Paul Pierce of the Celtics. I pretty much hate basketball, especially professional basketball (I'm a baseball and anything-on-ice kind of person), but I love Paul Pierce.

Date: 2010-08-06 12:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh baseba...zzzzzzzz.... ;)

Yeah, lucky you. The Celtics. You're getting Shaq I think. Snoozefest there, in my opinion. Paul Pierce, huh. I'll check him out.

But I think I'm going to be keeping an eye on the Heat this year. Oh yeah.

Date: 2010-08-06 01:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, we're getting Shaq.

True story: I had a "boyfriend" in preschool. Then I saw Larry Bird on TV and told my parents I was dumping my boyfriend in favor of Larry Bird. My now-ex told me, "Amy, that guy you're gonna marry, I'm gonna punch him." I went home crying and my mom explained to me that a four-year-old boy couldn't reach Larry Bird to punch him.

And then I ended up marrying a guy who looks an awful lot like Larry Bird's nonathletic twin.

Date: 2010-08-06 01:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hahahahaha! I know you're what, maybe 5 feet tall, on a stretchy day? How tall is Brian?

Date: 2010-08-06 01:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
6'2" or 3". He outweighs me by over 100 pounds, too.

Date: 2010-08-06 01:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't think it's just a matter of it being a racial issue, though. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the economy is in shambles, the unemployment rate is sky high, and professional sports players are being paid multi-million dollar salaries and then acting like it's the most important news of the year that they're moving teams, not moving teams, retiring, etc. The drama of Bret Favre retiring (is he really? is he going to stay retired? OMG I CARE SO MUCH!) pisses me off as much or more. Big fat WAH! A rich sports dude is retiring and everyone is so sad. I wonder how sad they are when people who actually help them, like cops and teachers, retire?

Date: 2010-08-06 04:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I get your points, but that's not what the rhetoric is about. If a young black sports players worst (public) mistake is that he made a gratuitous big deal about changing teams and then donated the millions to charoty, then what the hell is our problem?

When the people who are in the sports industry (like owners, coaches and professional sports writers) start throwing double standards around, yeah I call racism. And that matters. Whether or not the players make millions, it still matters.

Of course cops and teachers perform more valuable services to society. But that's not what this post was about.

Date: 2010-08-06 04:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I just have to LOL at this. I mean, really? You just defended LeBron James when the term that immediately comes to my mind when I think of him is a racial slur. You've followed him for how long? Since he became a 'star' & want to boast that he's a decent person... right. I'm baffled.

Date: 2010-08-06 04:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Did you read my post? He *appears* a decent person and I have no other way of knowing, seeing as how I don't know him personally. And neither do you.

Did you read my post? That fact that you just called him a nigger without calling him a nigger just proves my point that racism is real in this issue.

Consider yourself defriended. I will not hang with racists - and yeah, throwing around 'racial slurs' paints you as one.

Date: 2010-08-06 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't know him. I did at one point. He was a n----- then & from what I know, still is. You can paint me as a racist if you want - I've never claimed not to be.

Date: 2010-08-06 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't care if he is a jackass who doesn't tip. I'm only going with the professional image he projects and the rhetoric the media are throwing around regarding his choice to trade teams. Clearly you cannot hang with the discourse.

And I am gravely dismayed that being a racist is fine with you. Please go away from my LJ.

Date: 2010-08-08 12:35 am (UTC)


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October 2010


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