Did race play a role in the backlash to LeBron James’ “The Decision”? James thinks so, and he has a good reason to believe that. Now, before you start shaking your fists at your screen, take a gander at this recent release of Q Scores, a polling system that measures popularity:
Among non-blacks, James’ negative Q rating went from 24 percent to 44 after his free-agency announcement. However, among blacks, his negative Q Score slipped just from 14 percent to 15 percent. [Sun Sentinel]
The study clearly supports the notion that race was a factor. Personally, I think race may have played a small role, but it’s the things the study didn’t measure that played a bigger role. People hated “The Decision” mainly because it was a narcissistic move. Period. LeBron would’ve drawn some heat (excuse the pun) even if he was white, red, or purple.
Despite losing out on the LeBron sweepstakes, I doubt that Jay-Z will cut James off like a light switch. On the other hand, there are those in the black community who despise LeBron for his decision and nothing else. One of the reasons I’m eagerly looking forward to this season’s NBA on TNT is that Charles Barkley has made a hobby out of ripping LeBron since “The Decision.” Last I checked, Sir Charles was still a member of the black race.
That said, I have trouble believing that a white athlete of LeBron’s stature would be despised to hell for doing the same exact thing. African-American athletes with inflated egos are easily painted as privileged divas or spoiled brats. Their error margin is smaller than that of their white counterparts. That’s what makes “The Decision” unpopular in the black community. It paints an entire race in a negative light, and that might explain the slight dip in Q Score among African-Americans.
Ultimately, how you perceive these issues will depend partially or entirely on your background and experience. Many whites have a hard time understanding how race can be a factor in the way blacks are treated, unless it’s extremely obvious. Blacks and white apologists, on the other hand, sometimes exaggerate the place of race in these matters. We’re all suspicious of one another in America, thus fueling the racial tension that funnel these issues.
Dismissing the role of race is just as dangerous as attributing everything under the sun to racism. Sports provide a platform for us to dissect the social paradigm, one way or another. If we take advantage of the opportunities and engage in meaningful discourse, we’ll someday learn to view others through the lens of their own actions instead of the color of their skin. Okay, I’ll get off the podium now.
Syl Johnson, please play us out.