You know how America hates LeBron James now after “The Decision?”
That’s not exactly true. We should say white America hates LeBron, because the numbers say black Americans do not.
In a fascinating post at ESPN, Vincent Thomas has the numbers:
According to The Q Scores Co., for non-blacks, LeBron’s positive Q rating went from 18 percent in January to 10 percent in September and, more telling, his negative Q rating went from 24 percent to 44. Nearly half of the non-blacks in this country don’t like the dude. Meanwhile, LeBron’s positive Q rating among blacks went from 52 percent in January to 39 — a noticeable drop — but his negative Q rating barely budged, going from 14 percent to 15. Among African-Americans, says The Q Scores Co. executive vice president Henry Schafer, the shift in opinion was mostly to neutral.
We’ve seen this divide before, the OJ Simpson trial had a lot of it. Thomas uses the term “black protectionism” and explains it this way.
The more America shuns LeBron, the more Black America retreats to his corner. In fact, as America hates LeBron more and more, Black America’s collective hug embraces LeBron tighter and tighter. It’s called black protectionism.
Athletes have always been inspirational figures within the black community and — as far back as Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson — often have taken the public racial hit for the team. So, naturally, through the years, they’ve engendered an almost automatic protectionism response whenever America — whether justifiably or not — decides it wants to hate them. You saw it with Hank Aaron. You saw it with Barry Bonds. You saw it with Allen Iverson. You saw it with Michael Vick. You’re seeing it now with LeBron James.
Thomas makes this comment about how we view athletes, and the perspective of hating LeBron.
And for what? Why? Because “The Decision” was annoying and self-indulgent? I’m sorry, but Brett Favre was nowhere to be found on The Q Scores Co.’s top 10 most disliked list. And, dig this: America dislikes LeBron more than it dislikes Ben Roethlisberger. That’s just not deserved. So, you know what? Enter the ride-or-die black community.
Henry Abbott makes an interesting point at TrueHoop: Maybe what LeBron did was step out of the normal role as player to craft his own destiny, and that upsets the order of things. And with that, upsets some people. It wasn’t just free agency, but the plotting through free agency to manipulate and create a “superteam.” Of course, Pat Riley frankly had a lot to do with that, more than LeBron. But it is LeBron that bears the brunt of the hatred.
Go read the whole posts. I’m not going to pretend to understand all the cultural influences at play here, but the debate is interesting and says a lot about divides that still exist in America.