But enough about passing up the last shot. Ira Newbie’s attempts to raise awareness regarding the genocide taking place in Darfur have already been compared and contrasted with the relative apathy of teammates LeBron James and Damon Jones. In a Thursday editorial, The Christian Science Monitor’s Jonathan Zimmerman goes a bit further, calling LeBron’s inaction “cowardly”.
James echoes the dominant hoopster of his youth, Michael Jordan, who has a record of putting profits over principles. Mr. Jordan refused to endorse African-American Democrat Harvey Gantt in his bid to unseat Republican (and ex-segregationist) Jesse Helms in a racially tinged 1990 Senate race in Jordan’s home state of North Carolina. “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” he explained.
The Helms-Gantt election was, of course, a political contest. By comparison, the Darfur situation is an unconscionable crime against humanity. Politically speaking, it’s a slamdunk. Every credible human rights organization has underscored the complicity of Sudan’s government in the Darfur genocide; and even the Chinese acknowledge their support for this same government. As the 2008 Olympics get closer, the only question is what we’re going to do about it.
LeBron James has not decided whether he will compete in Beijing. But in the real battle, over Darfur, James has elected to stay on the sidelines. That’s his right, of course. And the rest of us have the right to call his behavior what it is.
While I think Zimmerman has a valid point — certainly James could wield considerable influence (and perhaps his Nike contract is discourages him from doing) — I’m not sure why a 22 year old basketball player is being held to a difference standard than his employers. When will Zimmerman manage to castigate David Stern, Daniel Gilbert or Jerry Colangelo for their refusal to hold China accountable?