LeBron James surprised everybody when he decided not to wear any social justice message on the back on his jersey. The NBA revealed a series of messages that players could use for the restart of the season, but the King opt to just wear his last name.
“It’s no disrespect to the list that was handed out to all the players,” James told reporters on a video conference call Saturday. “I commend anyone who decides to put something on the back of their jersey. It’s just something that didn’t really seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal. I would’ve loved to have had a say-so on what would have went on the back of my jersey. I had a couple of things in mind, but I wasn’t part of that process, which is OK. I’m absolutely OK with that.”
This decision received a variety of reactions from fans and analysts. While Skip Bayless attacked LeBron for not wearing a message, Stephen A. Smith actually agreed with the King. On Monday’s edition of First Take, Smith said:
“I’m not surprised at all by LeBron’s stance and I 100% support him. His actions speak louder than gestures or just words. (…) If you wanna talk about stuff, let’s talk about real things getting addressed. I’m not interested in talking about symbolic gestures. I don’t give a damn what is on the back of somebody’s jersey.”
Stephen A. explained people like Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X left a mark in history because they went beyond and did something more than a symbolic gesture to make a change. He thanked Kyle Korver but he clarified that just putting a message on a jersey wasn’t going to solve any problem.
“The one person that has extended beyond gestures is LeBron James because he has said ‘yo, this ain’t just about talking. What are we going to do?’ and you know everybody’s looking at me like ‘Stephen A., damn you’re usually critical of LeBron.’ No, I’m critical of free throws, I’m critical of his selection of jump shots but I’ve never been critical of the man that he is. The businessman that he is, the professional that he is, the socially conscious brother that he is. This man knows what he’s doing, he’s smart, he listens, he hears and more importantly, he acts. I stand with LeBron James 100% on this ’cause he’s smart and he’s using his intellect to provoke the kind of change instead of giving lip service to it. My man.”
There isn’t much to add here. Stephen A. knows what LeBron is trying to do and it’s hard to disagree with him. Bron believes he can do a lot more using other ways instead of wearing a message on his jersey. He has a huge platform, he’s one of the most influential athletes alive. LeBron can do more than just pick a message for his jersey.