LeBron James, Self Determination, and the Slavery of the African American Athlete

Ballard, Troy
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
A belief of white superiority has been a constant dominating undertone in American history, and because of this, there has been irrefutable prejudice and discrimination towards those of African American descent. Demonstrations of white supremacy are constantly visible within popular culture, most being tucked into the subscript of a popular sitcom, buried in the lyrics of the newest pop single or thinly veiled in a clothing advertisement, and professional sports are no exception. I suggest in this project that black athletes are exploited by a predominately white consumer base that values a win-loss column and statistics more than understanding the long-term and historical precedent of professional sports as an institution that forcefully rejects self-determination, promotes negative historical stereotypes and ideologies, and ultimately, serves as a contemporary form of slavery. To substantiate this claim, I will examine several prominent examples of the public sphere broadly rejecting LeBron James’ desire to self-determine. This project will analyze public letters written by a team owner, fan and public responses on Twitter and professional sports publications following comments made by James about his salary and following “Decision.” By examining the career of James, arguably the most popular black athlete in the world, he is the ideal metaphor for all other African American athletes.
African American, Self-Determination, Slavery, LeBron James
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