America needs understanding and compassion now more than ever. The country is like a pasta pot that’s boiling over. And what is the answer of the media and partisan politics? Just turn up the gas and leave the kitchen. Unacceptable. I sent the tweet below in support of LeBron James’s recent controversial tweet, which he later took down.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a recap.
NBA great LeBron James put out a tweet related to the recent death of 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant who was shot by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio, last week.
Last Wednesday, James tweeted a screencap of the officer from press footage of the incident, and beneath it wrote:
“YOU’RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY.”
With an hourglass emoji next to it.
Of course, the nuclear-powered Rage Machine that is social media these days yanked all its control rods immediately and went into full meltdown.
Senator Tom Cotton tweeted a rebuttal, “Lebron James is inciting violence against an Ohio police officer. This is disgraceful and dangerous. Is the NBA okay with this? Is Twitter?”
The National Fraternal Order of Police tweeted. “[He] should educate himself and, frankly, has a responsibility to do so, on the facts before weighing in. This is disgraceful & extremely reckless. The officer saved a young girl’s life.”
The pile-on goes as high now as a Cincinnati bar saying NBA games will be barred until LeBron is fired.
The Columbus Police have released video footage that appears to show Bryant was armed with a knife and was shot while trying to stab two other teenagers. An investigation into the incident is ongoing and that young girl losing her life is very sad.
Lebron then deleted the offending message and tweeted about that too,
“I’m so damn tired of seeing Black people killed by police. I took the tweet down because [it’s] being used to create more hate -This isn’t about one officer. it’s about the entire system and they always use our words to create more racism. I am so desperate for more ACCOUNTABILITY.”
And then this follows on as well:
“ANGER does any of us any good and that includes myself! Gathering all the facts and educating does though! My anger still is here for what happened that lil girl [sic]. My sympathy for her family and may justice prevail.”
A couple of things occur to me here. Did Lebron’s use of the word “accountability” rise to the level of a call for violence against the police as Senator Cotton claims?
I would say it doesn’t. “Accountability” means being held responsible for one’s conduct. It doesn’t mean, “Go do violence!” We can also see that LeBron James deleted that tweet on news that it was being misread (maybe even twisted). He then attempted to offer context and clarity about what he was trying to say. You’ll notice that he didn’t double down and say, “Yeah, kill the cops! That is what I meant.”
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t reacted in a reflexive or emotional way at some point in their life without regret. And I really think that is what LeBron did here and tried to correct it. But more about that in a minute.
Why do I care about this at all? It starts with my youngest son.
Up until I left the Navy SEAL Teams I had little connection with basketball culture.
Then, around 2013, I got an invite to speak at the Nike high school basketball tournament in Orange County, California.
All the top-ranked high school teams were playing over the weekend. The athletes were amazing to watch.
Before my last talk of the day to one of the teams, I got a tweet from Marcus Luttrell that, American Sniper Chris Kyle had been shot and killed.
It was devastating to hear and I was shaken to the core.
Chris and I had gotten closer outside of the teams and shared a lot of personal information about our struggles with family, marriage, and being among the first group of modern-day SEALs to pen stories, which had come with a lot of criticism from our own community. I noticed later that these harsh critics went on to tell their own stories through books and podcasts without mentioning that they had changed their minds about it being a bad thing.
Anyway, perspective is everything, and I think that many SEALs now see things differently.
Pioneers and leaders always get the first gust of wind in their faces before those that come after.
A Young LeBron James Meets With Nike
I went on to give my talk regardless of the news because that’s what people in leadership positions do. They compartmentalize, pull up their socks, and give the talk.
Later, I would get an invite to the incredible Nike headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Tony, the head of Nike high school basketball, was a class act and invited me up. I took Hunter, my oldest child with me, he was six-seven at the time. Aside from an incredible tour and history of Nike, there was one story that stuck with me.
Tony told me the story of how impressed everyone at Nike was when LeBron came to visit. I’ll try and summarize it to get to convey my main message of why I support and will always back The King.
LeBron showed up to Nike to talk about an endorsement deal. It was his friend, his mom, and him. No agent or lawyers. He represented himself and to hear it from Tony, he did a damn good job of it from what I’m told.
After a full day of tours, and glad-handing, James kept asking about his workout. The Nike execs just kept saying, “Yes, of course, but, later.” By the end of the day, they treated them all to a dinner out. Afterward, James’s friends were begging him to see a new movie (it was a Friday evening, I think).
James again asked about his workout, and would only agree to the movie if he could get someone at Nike to work him out. The Nike chaperone assured him they would make it happen.
Tony would tell me later they thought for sure after the movie they’d be off the hook and LeBron would just drop it. After the movie, he looked at the Nike rep square in the eye and said “ok, it’s time for my workout.”
Here was a young man on a mission and he wasn’t going to miss his daily routine for anybody.
The Nike rep called and woke up a trainer just past midnight and LeBron worked out until 2-3 a.m. like a madman.
Nike was just given a re-education in work ethic by a young 18-year-old LeBron James and the corporate team knew they had to sign him at all costs. Here was definitely a great one in the making.
Fast forward and LeBron is one of the best players ever, maybe the best. Years passed until I was reintroduced to the game by my youngest son Grayson who’s an incredible player and three-point shooter. Thankfully, he’s going to be tall, which helps his chances for high school and maybe college ball. At 14 he’s closing in on six feet. I love hearing other parents scream out “Shooter!” when he’s playing.
A close friend from Spain has a contact in the NBA and a few years ago Grayson and I attended the all-star game in Charlotte.
Stephen Curry and LeBron, in particular, were class acts. They went out of their way to smile and take photos with my son. It was an incredible experience for us both. I appreciate their leadership and the time they took to give back to a young generation of basketball fans and my kid. LeBron James has been a leader and stayed on message.
To my mind, he is a good human being and a leader among leaders.
There really isn’t anything I know about him that leads me to believe that he is a racist or hates cops. LeBron James’s recent tweet and attempt to rectify a badly crafted message don’t change my mind on that. We are all capable of acting reflexively and emotionally in ways that don’t reflect our true feelings or nature.
That includes me. You see, I got myself arrested once as a young Navy SEAL for slugging a cop. He had grabbed me from behind and I acted reflexively and without thinking and elbowed him in the face. Does that mean I hate cops? Not at all. If I had a moment to think first I wouldn’t have done it. But like LeBron, I acted in the moment on pure trained reflex and emotion.
I managed to get that altercation resolved without going to prison long-term (I did do jail time) and I know many members of law enforcement today who are among the best people you could ever want to be around. They are committed to excellence and protecting the community at large. But they will also tell you that a very small minority should not be in uniform. They are the wrong sort to have that much trust and authority. They would also use the word “accountability” when talking about cops who exceed their authority.
People say they are willing to listen to both sides but I often find they are just cheering for their side without really listening at all.
There actually is a dialog to be had on this issue and a great many people need to try and put faction aside and really listen and understand what both sides are saying. One side saying that all cops are racist is just as wrong as those claiming that not a single one is racist, but these are the viewpoints trying to dominate all discussion right now.
Lebron James isn’t a racist cop hater. And people who are calling for him to be fired and stripped of his sponsorships are some of the same people who would complain about the evils of “Cancel Culture.”
We need to be against that no matter which side is trying to do it.
The answer to speech you don’t like or agree with is to reply with free speech of your own.
LeBron obviously regrets the way in which he tried to make his point, and he tried to correct it. Still, his critics are trying to define his entire life by it.
The LeBron James I think I know is a different guy. A guy who took a moment in the midst of an important game to take a picture with a young boy who idolized him.
I think that speaks to the actual heart and nature of who LeBron James really is more than any single Tweet ever could.