Bernstein: LeBron's Fumble Brings Heat From All Over

James should've better articulated an appreciation for freedom and human rights.

Dan Bernstein
October 15, 2019 - 2:07 pm

(670 The Score) In these polarized and tribalistic times, it takes a pretty special performance to have people from across the full stretch of the spectrum unhappy with an opinion on a controversial issue, from the kibbutz dweller tending the crops for the collective to the ruddy bumpkin in his USA hat, scowling in his truck with all the NRA stickers on it.

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So give it up for LeBron James.  

With his mealy-mouthed and ill-considered commentary on Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's support for the protest movement in Hong Kong, James has become a uniter and not a divider, succeeding in having everyone call him out.  James incorrectly dismissed Morey as uninformed and selfish amid a disorganized salad of words Monday evening while lamenting how he and his traveling party had been inconvenienced by it all. This was a multi-billion dollar corporation in desperate need of a commensurate PR staff, unable to express a sufficiently nuanced position for something so complicated and inflammable.

Those looking for the most powerful single person in the entire equation to voice more full-throated support for either Morey or the protest movement itself were disappointed, especially considering how much James has done in his own country to help the less fortunate. It was probably never going to happen for James to defend the basic human rights and freedoms of those in Hong Kong, but many clung to the idealistic notion that such a statement from him would matter in a more tangible way, with Dave Zirin of The Nation making a well-reasoned and fair comparison to Muhammad Ali, using it to illustrate the courage of real sacrifice.

No such thing here for James, who has shoes to sell and a movie about to hit theaters around the globe. The NBA itself has had a difficult enough time avoiding rhetorical land mines since this broke, and the business that is LeBron James is tromping around in similar fashion, appearing like nothing less than a sellout after all the good deeds and positive efforts undertaken here.

And that's the part that has all the pernicious chuds pointing the finger of hypocrisy in an attempt to undermine and invalidate James. These are the people for whom empathy is undesirable, not all human beings are equal and real social justice is anathema. Rather than acknowledge that charitable works and concern for marginalized people aren't a zero-sum all-or-nothing undertaking, they instead apply petty and cynical whataboutisms to congratulate themselves on believing that all of it is a waste of time because their own lives are just fine.

Where one side may cling to a fantasy of James' star power breaking through the state-censored news and social media to shine a light on injustice, emboldening the Chinese people to throw off the yoke of oppression and weaken the hold of a brutal totalitarian government, another side can't wait to get to pretend that no concern for any downtrodden people anywhere is worth it.

It's too bad that James let this happen, especially after five days to consider everything and get it right -- or at least more right than he did. It was never going to be perfect, but he could've better tried to articulate an appreciation for freedom and human rights everywhere while discussing openly the conflicts and hypocrisies in which all of us engage every day when our country's economy is so inextricably linked to that of China.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.