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Over the weekend, active Twitter users rushed to the defense of LeBron James after international soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimović told him to “stick to sports.” Among the outraged was MSNBC primetime host Joy Reid, who spreads many of the same tiresome talking points as LeBron, telling millions of viewers that America is a rotten country. This time, Reid declared LeBron the modern-day Muhammad Ali.
In other words, LeBron is on par with a hero.
I'll say it again. LeBron James is today's Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Glad he has that platform. Keep speaking, @KingJames. https://t.co/A0YgKvj9pN pic.twitter.com/eyGXwkxLNe
— Joy-Ann Pro-Democracy & Masks Reid 😷 (@JoyAnnReid) February 27, 2021
As an activist, LeBron is actually the anti-Ali. Muhammad Ali sought change through courage, through vision. During the Vietnam War, Ali risked his career and even imprisonment because he took such dangerous, unpopular opinions.
LeBron is the opposite. He grandstands and popularizes opinions that have already been deemed acceptable across corporate America. Each stance LeBron takes is essentially pre-approved by Nike and other sponsors that have put him on track to become the fifth billionaire athlete in the world.
Muhammad Ali risked his career during the Vietnam War, LeBron James grew his brand well beyond basketball through BLM and opposing Donald Trump.
Saturday was far from the first time LeBron has been compared to Ali in this way though.
“The stakes of LeBron’s opinions are not substantial,” OutKick’s Clay Travis said on this very topic in 2018. “Look at what was happening when Ali was speaking out in 1968? We’re at war in Vietnam, we’re dealing with the MLK & RFK assassinations, 18-year-olds were being drafted into the army, and cities are burning in riots…. What’s going on right now??”
The comparison was delusional in 2018, but it’s gotten far worse since.
Any remaining belief that LeBron’s social agenda is anything more than a promotional tool for his brand was shattered in 2019 when he bent the knee to China, a country in which LeBron and the NBA have generational money tied up. LeBron didn’t just shut up and dribble, he told others in the NBA to fall in line so that they wouldn’t risk his bottom line:
LeBron James rips Daryl Morey, says Morey was uneducated. Says, “We do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negatives that come with that too.” Really. pic.twitter.com/ZTw6a3FZ5n
Ali jeopardized his freedom, LeBron wouldn’t jeopardize the profit of a shoe sale.
This summer, not long after reiterating he’s more than an athlete, LeBron spoke up about the tragic death of Breonna Taylor. However, he sat silent about the horrific shooting of two police officers in Los Angeles — the city in which LeBron lives and plays — because doing so would’ve run afoul of BLM. Thus, LeBron ran from the story even after he was publicly challenged to match the reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Knowing the negative reputation of police online, LeBron sat that one out. He just kept dribbling. When LeBron was asked about the police killings during a presser, a time when he often addresses social issues, LeBron just wanted to talk basketball.
“I have zero comment on the sheriff,” LeBron responded to the question.
Got that, Joy Reid? This era’s Muhammad Ali couldn’t take the time to speak about the slaying of two local police officers. He refused to condemn slave labor in China. But he does call Trump a racist, wears BLM gear, owns a Colin Kaepernick shirt, and looked to pay the fines of convicted felons in Florida so they could vote last November. His bravery is really off the charts.
The worst part of all of this is the history lesson it teaches to future generations. Joy Reid and other media members have gotten the cue that LeBron James should be viewed as today’s Muhammad Ali. Millions of Americans hear that, they read that, and then they start believe that. There may be no evidence to back it up, it may be a lie, but it’s the story nonetheless, with all the subplots we just pointed out either cherry-picked or left out completely. Though LeBron James is called the modern-day Muhammad Ali, he’s nothing like him. He never has been.