LeBron’s Bikes

Auckland         As the sports commentators often say, LeBron James is “part of the conversation” on who might be the greatest basketball player ever.  Having played with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he brought them a title finally after decades and the Miami Heat where he won two championships, he has been in the finals for umpteen consecutive seasons.  Recently, at the end of a contract, he signed another with the storied Los Angeles Lakers to continue his career.   LeBron knows basketball, so why is he at the center of yet more of President Donald Trump’s racist dog whistles to his base?

Well, in defending fellow superstar and longtime opposition competitor Steph Curry’s comment earlier in the year that he and the Golden State Warriors had no interest in visiting the White House as long as Trump was running the circus there, LeBron had called the president a “bum.”  Most of us would have thought that Trump would have been grateful.  There were so many other things he might have said, as we all well know, but Trump thrives on conflict, so it was on.

Trump bided his time but saw an opportunity.  LeBron James continuing to be an ambassador for northeast Ohio and his hometown of Akron, opened a school there called “Promise Academy.”  Trump pounced on him and insulted his intellect in a signal of racism to his hater band.  He tried to get his goat by saying, “I like Mike,” meaning in the arguments between the two he favors Michael Jordan for the GOAT award.  Jordan for his part voted for LJ, meaning LeBron James.  Melania Trump, the first lady, earned some respect, saying for her part, she would love to visit Promise and see what they are doing for children in Akron.

Most interestingly, I was captivated by the fact that LeBron gave every one of the children coming to the school a bicycle, explaining that having a bike when he was a boy opened up the greater world to him and allowed him to experience its potential and meet people, including white folks, and understand something outside of his home experience.  What a wonderful story.  Not the standard iPad or computer, but a door to the rest of the world and a way to exercise and be mobile at the same time.

Trump had a golden opportunity, but he blew it.  Some mass marketer or philanthropist will hopefully jump on the bandwagon soon to start a national program, let’s call it “LeBron’s bikes” to try and get bicycles to young people everywhere.

And, if Trump doesn’t think LeBron is smart, how brilliant is it of LeBron to be identified with bicycles and not just basketballs.  I bet there is a long line in front of his agent’s office of bike companies from around the world wondering what it would take to have LeBron pitch their bikes or how many of them they can give to children hoping for one.

To miss this opportunity to make some huge social changes you must be some kind of loser bum.

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Back and Forth “Boycotts” in the Time of Twittering Trump

Little Rock   LeBron James is a standup guy, and one heckuva ball player. The other day as the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers traveled to play the New York Knicks, he claimed he wasn’t making a political statement, but exercising personal preference ,and declined to stay in a Trump branded hotel. Most of his teammates followed him, though they all came on the same bus to Madison Square Garden.

These Trumpster hotels, even ones where he is no longer getting any moola, like the one most of the Cavaliers declined to sleep in, are no doubt items of curiosity, as people try to get a grip on some kind of touchstones that might help understand the incoming president, but undoubtedly there will be many that decline to stay at his hotels, eat in his restaurants, or golf on his fairways, personal preferences and the American way of low-threshold silent, personal protests being common for many. On the other hand, ethicists and virtually all of the former Republican and Democratic ethics lawyers employed at the White House note that many, including foreign governments and corporations by the legions will flock to stay at Trump branded hotels, particularly the new hotel in Washington, DC, in hopes of currying even the least favor. To the degree such birds of a feather do come together, it is easy to imagine that these properties may become the playground and business watering and resting holes for countless minions of the right.

Whether it’s a real boycott or a LeBron-style “personal preference,” he and many others can now also add to that list resisting a Hardee’s roast beef or a Carl’s, Jr. burger, and start covering their eyes every time one of the new Secretary of Labor’s salaciously politically incorrect hottie commercials airs with one of his juicy offering. Forget about watching the fantasy matches of the World Wrestling Federation as well. Likely the list will grow.

Meanwhile, the hater-baiters over at Breitbart.com are mad as always at the top of their lungs and calling for various corporate boycotts by their alt-right, mad dog website base. Corporate boycotts and rightwing conservatives? Yes, it doesn’t sound right, but that’s what Stephen Bannon’s boys are up to over at his old job, before he became the Trump whisperer as his chief strategist. Here’s the Breitbart beef. A bunch of straight-laced, big name, Brand A companies pulled their ads off of Brietbart.com once their big brass and their public relations folks started coming to grip with the corporate risks of being identified with a racist, misogynist, hater outfit bundled under the umbrella of the alt-right. Though the Brietbarters would have you believe they are all about free enterprise, they don’t like it when it’s not going their way, so they have declared various boycotts to try and bully the ad money back into their pockets. Their current target is Kellogg’s. Not surprising with its big consumer footprint. They have big boycott signs on their website with pictures of boxes of cornflakes.

But what’s the message? GMO/s? Nutrition? Calories? Hardly! Whining about losing money, oh, no, they can’t go there with their base and disclose the real facts. Instead they drag up fake news attacks they have generated about the Kellogg Foundation and claims of the terrible grants it has made supposedly to George Soros and the Tides Foundation, based in San Francisco. Really, grants to Soros who has his own foundation from his mega-billions? And, Tides because they funded progressive environmental, community, and human rights causes for the last 40 years almost?

Executives at Kellogg’s are probably worried more about the latest weather report in Michigan than they are about any Brietbart bully boycott. And, sadly, as Trump continues to court his base, he probably cares less about LeBron’s personal preferences or any of the rest of our concerns, though his daughter’s brand and sales have reportedly been impacted in places like New York City.

Nonetheless, we all have to do what we can, and maybe boycotts are coming back as weapons for progressives, and even for conservatives who have usually shunned them.

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