The worst enemy to LeBron James’ image is LeBron James.
James sent out this tweet today and probably thought nothing of it:
20+ games left in phase 2. I’m ReFOCUSED! No prisoners, I have no friends when at WAR besides my Soldiers.
But the condemnation on twitter was fast and furious — athletes using military terminology and saying they are at war while the country is actually at war and people are dying is a public relations disaster waiting to happen. Just ask Kellen Winslow.
And I get that. I get that sports are not war and the comparisons are silly. LeBron will make tens of million, soldiers actually risk their lives for an annual salary James blows on a night out in Vegas. James is playing games and living large at home, soldiers are changing lives in cramped conditions in far off lands.
But from coaches to players for generations, war and military language have been a part of sports. Because it’s about striving together as a unit to best an opponent. Because it is a brotherhood. The stakes are far less high, the consequences of losing far less serious. But there is a similarity of purpose.
For LeBron, who is under the brightest of spotlights, this is just another public relations mistake. Whatever he meant to say. To borrow another military expression, he shoots himself in the foot a lot. LeBron’s supporters will point out that he meant no disrespect to the troops with this, and that is true. LeBron’s detractors will add this to the long list of things he has done that rub people the wrong way.
Really, this tweet is a LeBron James Rorschach test — what you think of this tweet probably tells you more about what you think of LeBron than it does about his words.
But LeBron didn’t really need anything else to fuel the fire of people weary of him. That’s why this is another public relations mistake.