U.S. History Tutorial
Sports Figures in American History: LeBron's Social Legacy
This article looks at history in the making as Lebron James confronts social injustice and inequality in America.
The history of Olympic and professional sports in the United States contains an unvarnished social truth.This unpleasant truth; The personal triumph of America’s most gifted athletes has often occurred in the shadow of history’s shame and social upheaval.
During the 1936 Olympic Games in Munich Germany,America’s greatest Olympian Jesse Owens, crushed Hitler’s lie of Aryan Supremacy. Owens won four track and field gold medals in two days, leaving Hitler humiliated and defeated.
In 2016-2018,80 years after Jesse Owens humiliated Nazi Party leader Adolph Hitler in Munich, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lebron James has humiliated U.S.President Donald Trump because of his notoriously divisive social rhetoric and insensitive racial remarks.
Beginning with his stand against police brutality after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012,James has progressively made greater and higher committments to the society he was born into. Everyday,Lebron James lives out the courage of his convictions.
After securing his professional legacy by winning two titles with the Miami Heat, Lebron returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers.King James promised the land he would bring the city its first professional title in over 50 years, and in 2015, he made good on that promise.
In the 2016 presidential election cycle,Lebron James supported Hillary Clinton against GOP candidate Donald Trump. After Trump won the election,James waded into troubled,uncharted waters.
He stridently opposed President Trump,and led other NBA players in a boycott if sorts. Lebron’s Cavaliers and 20 other sports teams stopped stayng in Trump branded hotels on road trips.
Several months later during a rally in Alabama,President Trump called black NFL players who silently knelt during the national anthem,”sons of bitches”. In response, Lebron James called Donald Trump a bum.
Surely,there have been great American athletes before Lebron who have fought for social equality. Lebron James is not the first, but he is special and unique.
Lebron’s special place in society eminates from the combination of his professional dominance,universal fan appeal and incredible economic power.
Similar to ultra-popular media titan Oprah Winfrey,Lebron James’s public persona is ostensibly the beloved “ordinary extraordinary”.
In contrast,the greatest heavy weight boxing champion if all-time Muhammed Ali was brash, outspoken and unpopular in his time. Ali humiliated President Lyndon Johnson by refusing induction into the Army and through his polarizing statements against the Viet Nam War.
The U.S.political power structure of the 1960’s repaid Ali for his humiliation. Ali’s claim to conscientious religious objection was denied;he was convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his heavyweight title, financially crippled and professionally exiled for nearly five years during the prime of his career.
Ali became an internationally beloved champion during the twilight of his boxing career in the 1980s, and a living legend in retirement.
Unlike any other professional athlete in modern history, Lebron James dominated his profession and simultaneously, became a billionaire business mogul during the prime of his athletic career,winning multiple world.Moreover, at the age of 33, in season 15, Lebron James is still in his athletic prime.
Lebron’s socio-economic power is due in large part to the reality that an NBA player of Lebron’s skill level can determine the future of a sports franchise for a decade.Most importantly, Lebron was an independent economic engine before he became politically and socially engaged.
When Trump won the Presidency, Lebron openly expressed his disdain for the 45th man to occupy the office. James followed up by repaying Trump’s bigotry with a financial blow to his core hotel business.
Trump on the other hand,holds no economic or reputational power over Lebron James.Trump will find no allies in a turf war against Lebron James.
James has ultimate power over the Cavalier’s franchise owner, marketing power over NBA broadcast partners,and the power to change individual and team fortunes through free agency.
The instances of bigotry from a disgruntled person,or opposition from right-wing media, fall upon Lebron James infrequently. In those instances, James invariably receives support from other elite NBA players such as Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and cherished friend Dwayne Wade.
There has never been a social activist professional athlete like Lebron James.Through a special endowment,James has paid in advance,the college tuition of over 1,000 kids from the Akron, Ohio area.
King James is a bridge over troubled waters. He is dedicated to the task of leading Akron kids out of adversity,even when they think there’s no way out.
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