LeBron James Mixes Politics and Sports like a Cold Drink on a Friday Night

Critical Response Blog to Zirin’s ‘Game Over’

There is an old adage that reads something like “politics and sports should never mix.” Even the book Game Over, written by established sports writer Dave Zirin references this proverb. But why not, is the question that should be asked? Why is it wrong to use the ever growing platform of sport, and more importantly pro sport to voice opinions and displeasures about matters concerning our world? Isn’t there power in knowledge? Zirin, as well as Michael Eric Dyson who contributed to the foreword, examines this concept, and how in recent times athletes have abandoned this idea and taken into their own hands an effort to empower and educate those who may otherwise not have the ability to know. The foreword, or ‘Pre-Game’, examines potentially the world’s most famous athlete, LeBron James and his teammates silent protest of the Trayvon Martin tragedy by posting a picture of them with their hoods up (as many have eluded that Martin was deemed ‘suspicious’ because his hood was up). One can imagine how a single picture can cause debates across not only the sports landscape but also the political landscape. Sure there is the fact that James has nearly 4 million followers to his Instagram account, and the premise of social media is to allow news to travel faster than light. More importantly however, is that LeBron was the first. In a time where professional athletes are worried about saying or tweeting the wrong thing or being caught with the wrong person by TMZ because of the chance they may lose out on millions of dollars, LeBron stood up and set a tone for all professional athletes. He used his notoriety, his power and his platform to educate. Whether or not he is right (as you may or may not know, George Zimmerman, who shot Martin, was found not guilty), he broke down Howard Cosell’s ‘golden rule’ that “sports and politics just don’t mix” (Zirin, 2013). We must be careful to remember the difference between politics in sports and politics and sports. Sports in politics have always coincided, from the early days of professional baseball, to the most recent lockouts in the NFL (National Football League), NBA (National Basketball League) and NHL (National Hockey League). Rarely, however have sports and politics overlapped as much as they have recently. Hopefully LeBron James can change the landscape of this as well as he has changed the landscape of the small forward in the NBA.

Jonathan De Luca

Zirin, D. (2013). Game over. New York, NY: The New Press.

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10 Responses to LeBron James Mixes Politics and Sports like a Cold Drink on a Friday Night

  1. cgibb77 says:

    I have not seen the picture, but I wonder if he had a Nike sweater on and the swoosh visible to his 4 million followers. Good for LeBron making a statement about a recent issue, but lets be honest, LeBron James will never change the landscape of sport and politics because his brand and endorsements mean to much. LeBron has been quoted saying he inspires to be the richest athlete in the world one day. To change the landscape in politics and sport, money shouldn’t be an issue or a longterm goal. A man like Muhammad Ali who put political issues before money changed the landscape of sport and politics.

    Although I disagree, great blog post, was a very entertaining read Jonathan!

    Marked – SE

  2. belinahooper says:

    I honestly feel that there is way to much politics in the world of sports. It has ruined the world of sport to a degree. I think that it is great that athletes stand up for what they believe in, but why does one athlete’s opinion or action have to be put into a national post ?! It is what it is. Very good post Jonathan.

    Marked – SE

  3. bozceko13 says:

    Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that LeBron James has done a great deed here for Trayvon Martin and his loved ones and it truly was one of the most inspiring images I have seen. But, I completely agree with cgibb77. Today’s world is MOE (Money Over Everything), any athlete will look to make a stand for the right thing because it is good for their image and they look like a good person. I’ll use a scenario, what if LeBron James was told if he posted that picture that he would lose all of his sponsors, do you think he would still post it knowing what he stands to lose? Everything aside, great blog Jonathan and the title of the blog is too funny.

    Marked – SE

  4. mmorello11 says:

    I agree, I think it is fine for athletes to use sport as their platform. Celebrities do it– why can’t an athlete. This is why I have a fairly strong opinion about Sochi 2014- but I am not going to get into this now. Sport and politics is and I think will always be connected. It is impossible to escape this relationship– especially, like you mentioned– with the ever expanding social media world and the use of technology in general. Information is spread throughout the globe so fast it is ridiculous.

    Marked – SE

  5. wilsonjulia says:

    I tend to agree with you Jonathan, LeBron James is also a person outside of just being a professional basketball player. Every person has a right to voice their opinion and stand up for what they believe in whether people agree with it or not. Although LeBron’s actions can be considered politics coinciding with sport because he is such a well known athlete, maybe it was his way of standing up for something that he can relate to on a personal level, that got blown into the media because there is constantly coverage on him. I think that sometimes we forget that athletes are people like you and I, and if an average person were to post a picture like LeBron did, I doubt that we would receive such backlash and debates of our intentions.

    Marked – SE

  6. mb11oo says:

    I think far too much of an issue was made of Lebron for simply wearing a hood. The Trayvon Martin case was viewed by the vast majority of the population to be a tragedy so its not like he was making outrageous personal statements about the war in Iraq or anything. THe fact that this person was targeted due to him wearing a hood is deplorable, so the fact that Lebron is bringing light to this issue or at least acknowledging the situation by a simple gesture is not out of bounds.

    Marked – SE

  7. vbibby says:

    i think the issue with politics and sports overlapping is when you have issues such as the Dennis Rodman and North Korea incident. In that case its clear to see Rodman is making a mockery of a very major international issue. In that case sport and politics should not mix not every political issue can be solved through the greater good of sport (which many believe), but there is a time and place for everything, In the case of Lebron James though, standing up for an issue you believe in should not be taken as such a big deal. In this matter when notable public figures take such stances its empowering and allows for a more positive coverage of the issue. If you followed the case you would understand the affect the issue had within the black culture and community, and support was being seeked from around the world to try and gain the well deserved justice, Lebron James was not the only sport icon or public figure that made a stance on the issue.

    Marked – SE

  8. kd09ch says:

    this is a great blog comment and a very interesting topic on sport, race, and politics. its very difficult to tell athletes to not get involved in politics when its a issue that they might have a strong view on. Lebron being the first to act upon this clearly shows he was affected by the incident and wanted to show the world his view knowing it would be seen because he is a huge super star in sport. I think athletes should do this more often because they can make a huge impact in societies views and make changes that us normal people can’t make. I think eliminating politics out of sport is impossible, but I think athletes should make their voices heard more often.

  9. pauldermody says:

    There is also a old saying that religion and politics should not overlap. I think religion has been trumped by sport. As long as there has been professional and semi professional sport, there has been a large political presence attached to it. It is seen evermore often now with athletes and sport because of social media and the general media have so many outlets. By saying that athletes have to be careful of what they are saying and what stance they take.

  10. devongribble says:

    Great post Jon. Given their presence in popular culture, professional athletes should be more vocal on their thoughts and views. With many fans, they can be very influential and help make a change in the world. Some people may be thinking the same thing as them but may be in fear of facing ridicule or criticism. If these people see their favourite athletes speaking out on what they think is right, then maybe more people will gain the courage to voice their opinion.

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