Several months ago, I wrote a blog post here regarding the racial dimensions of the reactions to LeBron James’ decision to change basketball teams. Now the issue is back up in the sports world. Several weeks ago, the Q Scores Company which ranks the popularity of athletes, reported that LeBron James is now the 6th most disliked athlete. He ranks behind Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, and Chad Ochocino.
However, his Q score has only fallen among white people! As Henry Abbott points out in an article worth reading we may want to find out why only white people are so angry.
Vincent Thomas on ESPN has a lengthy and well informed article on “black protectionism” tracing the history of black sports figures and the revulsion they have faced at the hands of white fans.
Several days ago, LeBron, once again with a lack of explanation and communication style which is coming to define him, weighed in that he thought race had played a role. This link also includes several video responses from sports pundits reacting to James’ latest announcement.
On a local Houston Rockets basketball blog The Dream Shake a lengthy and often times well informed fan discussion on race was sparked by the latest LeBron commentary. I am sure there are many other discussion running on basketball blogs as well. But this one struck me partly because it is a blog I regularly read, but also because the level of interest and commentary on the subject was extensive. There are over 80 comments at this time. That is about 4 times the normal response to an article on the site, except for those discussing trades of home town players. The comments are lengthy and multifaceted.
The commenters make many of the same sorts of points we regularly debate on this site. I could not help but notice the invisible white actor once again in many of these news stories and the commentary on the site. However, I am heartened by the fact that the topic of race has received such an extensive airing on sites that have thousands of hits per day.
Black protectionism aside, we still have to ask why whites are so upset. Honestly, I’m often astounded at the things white Americans decide to get so animated about, including both Vick and Tiger’s incidents. I heard one commentator postulate that maybe white America holds athletes in general in just too high a regard. I agree with that. Mike Greenburg (ESPN) said he wouldn’t allow his son to buy apparel of athletes linked to steroids. I don’t have kids, so maybe that’s why I don’t really care. But people shouldn’t be turned into role models just by virtue of being a pro athlete. And it seems white America is harder on black athletes than even white politicians.
The other thing I wonder about is whether apathy plays a part in this. I think black folks just got better things to worry about; and, in addition to being astounded by what white America gets so upset over, I’m equally astounded that they have the time and energy to be upset over such fickle, inconsequential matters.