LeBron James Shows Us All How To Use Our Platforms
King James is the manifestation of king behavior — lighting the way for others to speak up, stand out, and do things that last
If you were to look at my social media profiles a decade ago, you’d be scratching your head as to why I’m writing about LeBron James now. I grew up a diehard Kobe fan and I mean it. If we were to go back 10 years, you’d see a teenage boy chomping at the bit to show everyone how superior Kobe Bryant was to everyone, especially LeBron. It was all fun and games, but really, there was no place for anyone besides Kobe in my conversations.
But something changed as I got older. I matured and I stopped seeing people as the sports they played or the jobs they worked, but the things they did with their platform. LeBron moved away from being public enemy number one because he challenged my favorite to someone I not only admire now, but hope to be like one day. Crazy, right?
To me, once a young Black boy and now a young Black man with a career, a wife, and a better relationship with my Black self, I see LeBron for the type of person that he is: a king that absolutely deserves that title. I don’t know him personally, I hope to change that one day, but what I do know is his action.
They tell the whole story.
Despite the scrutiny he gets as a professional basketball player, he chooses to make sure his voice is heard. That’s important because his position gives him the ability to reach millions on any given tweet, public statement, or media push. I can’t say that this is how people felt when Jackie Robinson took every opportunity to speak what was on his mind about racial inequities or that LeBron is the only one doing this, but it’s impossible to understate the bar the LeBron has set when it comes to being a public figure working to maximize his impact.
There are countless people who would love to see him just stick to sports and fail, but I’m glad that that doesn’t fit in his mantra, that he pushes back here, and is willing to talk the talk and walk the walk and ignore the noise. He’s a testament that none of us have to “stick to ___” because it makes people uncomfortable. Any platform, big or small, whether it was designed for social activism or not, is a place where there can be a call for justice, equality, and just better overall. Is that not what the United States says is the “American” way?
The path LeBron has chosen has taken root in this generation. He’s inspired countless fans across the country to be more active in their communities and use their social mediums to start conversations that needed to be had. His mark will be felt generations afterwards as well. More than anything, by just having representation like him willing to go on offense and defense for the Black community and others, someone who could easily stay in a mansion and not risk his reputation, he stands as a lighthouse for anyone of color who didn’t think that they could make change once they reached a certain level of success.
Social activism, in this case, athletic activism as some would call it, will forever be a hot topic because it doesn’t sit right with people who are content with ignoring the world around them and the problems that exist outside of their bubbles. It will never be deemed okay by the multitudes of people who think athletic activism is an inconvenience to the sport in spite of it arguably making sports more genuine and sincere. It makes athletes human again, which is an entirely different conversation, but a mindset that we need to adopt to really see them for who they are.
You could say it’s all a show, but there’s no true evidence of that because you don’t have to look hard to find the work that’s been put in. Every time he’s questioned, the response is the same and the proof of those words rings true. He cares and he will continue to care.
In February, in response to AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s criticism of his political activism, LeBron made this promise:
“I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression, things that go on in our community. I know what’s going on still, because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that’s going through the same thing, and they need a voice, and I’m their voice. I’ll use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that’s going on around this country and around the world. There’s no way I would ever just stick to sports, because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice is.”
The statement above has meat. Why? Because it’s true. You can’t challenge the effectiveness of things he’s done and how much his voice truly means. For over a decade, he’s been putting his money where his mouth is and the list continues to grow every day. Here’s a taste:
- With the ad revenue raised from LeBron’s infamous “The Decision,” the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, Connecticut was able to renovate and use those proceeds to go to the gym and computer center with over 2 million dollars.
- The LeBron James Foundation partnered with the State Farm 26 Seconds campaign to create the Wheels for Education program in Akron, Ohio to combat the national dropout epidemic.
- LeBron opened up the I Promise School, to provide an education to those less privileged children. Qualifying members of the junior class (and oldest, soon to be senior class, will be receiving 4 years free and 1 year of room and board at Kent State if they choose to go there.
- James and his teammates drew national attention when they wore black hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin and he has since been vocal about the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Aavielle Wakefield and countless others who lost their lives after police encounters.
- He donated $1 million to his high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary, for a new gym and new uniforms.
- After LeBron spoke out against former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after he made a series of racist remarks, Sterling was removed from the league permanently, fined, and opening a new chapter of combatting racism through social activism in the NBA.
- He helped created “More Than a Vote,” which came on the heels of the murder of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. In response to the social climate for Black people, voter suppression and the need for Black voting and voting registration, he and others such as Eric Bledsoe, Draymond Green, Trae Young, Udonis Haslem, Alvin Kamara, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kevin Hart and other Black artists and athletes created voting drives and turned arenas into voting centers. Efforts garnered over 300,000 people voting at select arenas, 42,000 new poll workers, and over 25 million video views around voter education.
There are so many stories of real philanthropic acts and activism that can be told and that should move you. It’s moved me. Whether it’s on Twitter or in interviews or giving money, his character and reverence for his platform checks out.
It doesn’t matter how you feel about LeBron. His work ethic and initiative to get his hands dirty should serve as an example to us all. Not that he should be our measuring stick (I surely don’t have millions to work with), but he’s someone we can look to and ask ourselves how we can use the hundreds or thousands of dollars we do have. Better yet, another question we should be left with is how can we use our voices more and how can we put our own hands on something that really moves the needle forward.
He’s always under fire, but what he says always comes from a good place. Simply put, he is Black man, whose Black experiences aren’t taken away because he made money. He feels what I feel. He feels what you feel. And he wants change just as bad as anyone else in the Black community because that’s his community. He openly worries about why things urgently need to get better and isn’t afraid to call racism and wrongdoing for what it is. That by itself is iconic and shows his understanding of what it means to have influence.
I can say this confidently because his actions prove that.
It’s not about money. It’s about impact. It will always be about impact. If we were to leave Earth tomorrow, would we have a legacy that transcends living a nice quiet life where we only fended for ourselves? I can’t say that I would quite yet and I don’t think many of us could and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That should be the gasoline to our plans to do more things for the sake of others with the gifts and platforms we do have.
And yes, it does take an absorbent amount of courage and willpower to step up and that’s why so few of us actually do, but there’s something around us all that could use our touch, that could use another advocate, that could use a tweet or facebook post, that could use some art, or that could simply use our voice in a medium that would make things uncomfortable, but force it to be better. These are the places where we can fill in the gaps and the places where we need to be.
LeBron is more than just a basketball player. He’s a bonafide leader and he’s the archetype of a person that we need more of. Throughout the past decade, if there’s one thing he’s taught us all, it’s how and why it’s imperative we use our platforms for something much bigger than us.