Poverty, Presidential Politics and LeBron James

Maturation looks good on him but don’t be fooled. The rest is still there. The championship glory. The championship failure. The two cities. The best friend teammates. The villain. The hero. All of it wrapped in a bow, part of the LeBron James story of an Akron kid who never knew his father, raised in an impoverished and often transitional family, talent in chaos, national magazine covers, game winners, game losers, sullen, ecstatic. After a 12 year career, this is more salient than ever. The kid who was supposed to be the very best ever in a sport that has been around more than half a century has an argument that he just may be that thing no one imagined.

Very few jobs ask the talent to take less money than they are worth and please, please be quiet and play. No politics here. No Black Lives Matter. No I Can’t Breathe. Stop saying No Justice, No Peace. For the Akron native, that is just too much keeping silent. In other words: if you believe it, say it. If you honor it, do it.

It was LeBron James in 2008 publicly endorsing Barack Obama for President as Obama was trying to make history, the first African American to hold such a prestigious office. That year, LeBron lost to the Boston Celtics and the Big Three (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen) in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Some 8 years later, LeBron James has returned to the political stage, endorsing Hillary Clinton, who is attempting to become the first female president in United States history. He is doing it as a three time NBA champion.

“I support Hillary because she will build on the legacy of my good friend Barack Obama. I believe in what President Obama has done for our country and support her commitment to continuing that legacy. Only one person running truly understands the struggles of an Akron child born into poverty.”

The per capita income in Akron, Ohio is $19,896. Hillary Clinton will be in Akron on Monday afternoon. James, a generous financial godfather to his native city, recently gave $41 million dollars to send 1,100 Akron kids to college. And yet it takes more than money to break through the poverty ceiling. If money were the only solution, it would be easier to solve the social, educational and racial inequities that have been an intergenerational plague.  Money plays a big part but intervention in children’s lives matter just as much. Someone has to care.

James notes in his op-ed for Business Insider, “As a kid I didn’t have much money. It was just my mom and me and things were rough at times. But I had basketball. That gave me a family, a community, and an education. That’s more than a lot of children in Akron can say. There are a lot of people who tell kids who grew up like me and looked like me that they just don’t have anything to look forward to. That’s dead wrong.”

This has been a deadly summer for African American men who have had encounters with police. This had been a deadly summer in the city of Chicago where no one is spared. James best friend, Dwyane Wade, lost his cousin in a senseless act of violence. So for LeBron James, this awful, tragic, dead if you’re black summer has hit home.

When he first came into the league, James goals were very pie in the sky. He wanted to be a billionaire. Regardless of whether his financial acumen, skill and talent allow him to reach that goal,  James biggest influence is in the area of justice, poverty, equality and children. He has empathy for kids who were just like him minus the talent, the throwaway kids, the one no one looks at or cares about, the children who are lost. That legacy- each one, teach one- is more enduring than trying to get to five or six NBA titles.

The league has a slogan: NBA Cares. James has a slogan too: LeBron won’t forget you.

“I am not a politician. I don’t know everything it will take to finally end the violence. But I do know we need a president who brings us together and keeps us unified. Policies and ideas that divide us are not the solution. We must all stand together- no matter where we are from or the color of our skin.”

photo  via llananba