The BLOG: Culture

LeBron’s silence is deafening

On Dec. 28, 2015, the justice system in the United States let black people down by declaring that the police officers responsible for the death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio will not be brought up on any criminal charges.

On Dec. 30, 2015, LeBron James, in a different way, let a good number of black people down with his comments regarding the non-indictment of Rice’s killers. After the non-indictment ruling, activist and writer Tariq Touré started the hashtag #NoJusticeNoLeBron, calling for LeBron James to sit out games in response to yet another injustice.

LeBron is uniquely situated in the sports landscape in that, not only does he arguably have the most social capital of any professional athlete on the planet, he also is a black Ohio native and has spoken out regarding police brutality. So when Touré called on LeBron to, once again, speak on the realities of police brutality, the request did not come across as far-fetched.

LeBron had the chance to set himself apart from the archetype superstar athlete and to do justice to black people, particularly the black people in his home state. He had the chance and he squandered it, disappointing me and a swath of other (black) people. LeBron and his brand of social awareness took a serious hit in lieu of his decision to somewhat distance himself from the case and situation when he opted for the politician’s answer.

I was furious that LeBron James would not speak on the obvious tragedy that occurred due to our negligent justice system and the ineptitude displayed by the responding officers. But more than anything, I was upset that he had let me down in unique way as a person who has bought into his brand.

LeBron’s most recent shoe that came out under Nike is priced at retail for $200. When I walk into a FootLocker or any other sneaker store to check out his new shoes, I go into the store knowing that the price will be marked up. The reason I am okay with the mark-up is because I have bought into the personal brand of LeBron James. The same guy who gave 1,100 scholarships to the University of Akron and who performed on-court demonstrations alongside Eric Garner protestors.

Regardless of whether or not James knew all the details about the case, it would not have been a stretch or even out of his character for him to speak on the situation and, for whatever reason, he chose not to. Much like Tamir’s mother said when asked about the lack of response from James, quitting your job is not the response black communities are requesting. Words and sentiment hold a significant amount of weight in this instance and for him to forgo the opportunity to make an impact on the situation is pitiful.

I hope LeBron James uses this situation to act differently moving forward when, not if, another instance of police brutality happens somewhere close to home. I hope he does this because I’ve bought into his brand and, for whatever reason, trust him to do right by the many black people and children who look up to him. I hope he comes to understand that the black community, whether they are avid NBA fans or not, look to people in positions such as his to speak truth to power.

Carl Brooks Jr.

Carl Brooks Jr.

Carl Brooks Jr. is a freelance writer and blogger. He grew up in the Boston area and is passionate about sports, pop culture, and how race, class, and gender impact the two. He is finishing up his Sociology degree at Gordon College. He can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter at @carlbrooksjr, and at carlbrooksjr.net.

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