May 6, 2007

LeBron & Darfur Genocide

LeBron James is only 22-years old. That is a fact that we should keep in mind over the coming weeks as he is in the NBA spotlight. However, when you publically proclaim that you have a desire to become the "first" billionaire athlete, then you come under more scrutiny. Michael Jordan made a conscious effort to be apolitcal in his career. Money ruled with Michael Jordan. He once said, "Republicans buy gym shoes too" when asked why he wouldn't endorse a Democratic candidate.

LeBron James seems to be using the Jordan playbook. His actions appear to say, "Chinese people buy gym shoes too". Using that twisted logic it is unfortunate that there aren't many hardwood floors in Darfur. Maybe if Nike had more market share with the Darfur children and families that are being ripped apart we might have more heroic stance taken by LeBron.

The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that LeBron refused to be a witness against Darfur genocide. The Cleveland Cavaliers' Ira Newble recently wrote an open letter criticizing China's role in the Darfur genocide, urging fellow basketball players to pressure China to change its policy ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics. "China cannot be a legitimate host to the premier international event in the sporting world -- the Summer Olympic Games -- while it remains complicit in the terrible suffering and destruction that continues to this day," the letter stated.

Only two of Newble's teammates refused to sign onto his letter: Damon Jones and LeBron James. James, one of the NBA's most recognizable faces, is a perennial all-star and was named a tri-captain of the 2006 USA World Championship Team.

In a Christian Science Monitor op-ed yesterday, New York University history professor Jonathan Zimmerman explained, "James said he didn't have enough information about the issue to take a stand. Mr. Jones wouldn't comment." But he also noted, "Jones has an endorsement contract with an up-and-coming Chinese shoe and apparel company. James has a $90 million deal with Nike, which has huge business interests in China."

China is Sudan's largest trading partner. Brookings Institution scholar Roberta Cohen wrote, "Were China to use even a small part of its leverage to call Sudan to account, it would go a long way toward saving lives in Sudan."

In July 2005, the Center for American Progress Action Fund teamed up with the Genocide Intervention Fund to call citizens to "be a witness" of the genocide and ask major television networks to report on the massacre. James now appears in Nike advertisements calling others to be a witness ... of his basketball stardom. Perhaps King James should read Luke 12:48 ( whom much is given, much is expected...).
What do you think villagers? Is it unfair to expect more of atheletes in the spotlight than we expect of ourselves? Do we want our athletic heroes to have a conscience ... or just entertain us with their skills and commercials?


Lori said...

Today you could very well post your own picture in your blog's Village Hero section (smile). Thanks for being big and bad and bold enough to ask all of the right questions.

Paula Neal Mooney said...

This is amazing Wayne.

And it's sad to know that LeBron wouldn't sign the protest letter.

This issue is just going to heat up and up and there will be a lot more people wearing Genocide Olympics T-shirts and pressuring China to stop funding the "devils on horsebacks" that are burning children alive.

LeBron better get on the ball! Literally...

All the money in the world ain't worth people dying over.

the108 said...

I guess I'm sort of a bitch because I'm appalled at how much money these professional athletes get. I'm not to entertained by people who have been playing these sports for years and have built their entire lives around it. I'm far more entertained watching a bunch of four year olds going at it on a football

Michael Jordan.... ugh.

Fredric said...

that's deep. i'm, actually, kind of upset.

man, i was all ready to root for your boy too. i guess i can't jump on the gun TOO much. i mean, he still has time to sign....

but yeah...bogus.

Natalie said...

I expect the same of people in the spotlight that i expect from myself and that includes a little humanity and a stance for something.

the teach said...

I sat for a while looking at the blank space to leave a comment. I find it hard to be judgmental about these basketball players, especially the 20-something year old, Lebron James.

If I am going to criticize it will be China...who can get the Sudan to stop and won't.

Travis said...

I can't criticize. I can try to put myself in the young man's shoes.

I used to expect a lot from athletes and celebrities. But as I get older I realize that they have not signed a social contract, merely very lucrative business deals.

There are many conscientious athletes and celebrities doing what they can. But at the end of the day, they must reconcile the job to what is in their hearts, and have the courage of their convictions to stand and be heard.

Bronzetrinity said...

He's accepting money to turn his back on his brothers and sisters...I'm going to be proud of the rest of the team who agreed to be witnesses though. We will remember what happened though...If someone offers enough money LeBron James will turn his back on you.

Villager said...

Lori That is about the nicest thing that anyone has said to the Villager! Thank you very much. I hope you have been given reason to come back often to share your own insights.

Paula - I shared my thoughts in your PNM village. I think that you did a tremendous thing with your very practical list of steps that we can take to save Darfur from our current location typing on a computer screen! I also saw that your blog was added to site!

Kyra - sounds like you have a 4-year old in pads, huh? My 7-year old will be starting his second year in pads this summer! I agree ... much more enjoyable than a professional game (with high cost of attending a live game!). Thanks for your support.

peace, Villager

Villager said...

Fredric, Natalie, Bronze Trinity & Travis - On one level it is very disappointing to hear how LeBron is dealing with opportunity to make a statement. On the other hand, the kid is only 22 years old. The lure of the big money is very strong.

Teach - I agree that dealing with China is more productive use of time, talent and energy than dealing with LeBron (or any individuals.

peace, Villager

Rosemarie said...

I'm not at all up on current events, and this maybe why. This post will be a shout out on Miscellaneous Matters.

Join our book club!


No individual can save the world, however, I think it is important to work from within before attempting to provide assistance without. LeBron should first help his local community, state, region, country and then address international issues which concern him the most. Should he chose to currently pass on the Darfur issue, I can respect his stance.

He's not responsible for saving the world, however, he is responsible for giving back to the community who took part in raising him...

My $00.02

Stephen Bess said...

Greed is one of the deadly sins (period)

Great post! Now, it makes me feel good that I haven't followed the playoffs.

Villager said...

Rosemarie, Slump Facade & Stephen - I keep reminding myself that the kid is only a few years out of high school. His life experiences are such that the issue of genocide in Darfur may not yet be a reality in his outlook on the world. As someone said earlier ... our focus should go to countries like China more so than individuals like LeBron.

Anyhow, my thanx to everyone for reading this post in the first place!

peace, Villager