The power of words

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” … any connotation is viewed many ways … “


Promise: There will be a moratorium on LeBron James posts. But one last thing.

It hasn’t exactly been the best week for the King’s’ image. There was the Joakim Noah incident below, but Justice B. Hill over at NBC Sports also called him out on his lack of class after an encounter in the Cleveland locker room.

Apparently, LeBron was stretching at the same time the Cavs opened the locker room to the media. He had his head phones on, listening to a rap song — pick a rap song, any rap song. The language was about what you’d expect from your run of the mill rap record. But hearing LeBron sing along — N-words and B-words included — rubbed Hill the wrong way.

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Hill wrote:

I wish I could use the word “class” to describe any part of the King’s five-minute rendition Wednesday night of a profane rap song. I don’t know whose work the King sang; I do know he picked the wrong venue to perform it.

Yes, the King was in his domain, and the locker room has always been the province of the players, not the media. You hang out in locker rooms long enough and you’ll hear sexist, homophobic and rude comments flow like the waters in the Amazon.

Vulgarity should have no platform when the area is open to outsiders; vulgarity, no matter the place, should not be the language of a sophisticated man.

Class is a trait he grows into, and he learns to value what a reputation as “classy” means. He doesn’t turn class on or off like a water faucet. Either he has class or he doesn’t. King James, a man obsessed with image, comes up short on it.

I concede I might be making too much ado about what the King did. I plead old school here.

… King James played the 6-foot-8 minstrel to the discomfort of a white audience. He can have all the millions on his road to being a billionaire. He can have his Nike deals, his witty TV appearances, his movie; he’s earned those. All the King’s millions can’t buy him common sense or what he should want as much as anything else: for people to judge him as a man of substance — and as a man with class.

The obvious argument for James is that it’s hard to essentially walk into his house and tell him how he should act. Plus, in a league that’s 77 percent black, skews ridiculously young and has sort of been in an open relationship with hip-hop for about 15 years, the language shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. You can hear it at a Celtics practice or in the locker-room after a game. Kevin Garnett has the biggest reputation for it, but it’s not just him.


As far as the words, it’s the kind of talk you can also hear it in an inner-city school or on a corner in Downtown Crossing. Talking about the language would be opening up a dialog about a larger issue that’s more up Oprah or Al Sharpton’s alley, not this blog’s.
Whether LeBron should be more self-aware is a different issue, and sort of a solvable one.
The easy fix would be for LeBron to just smarten up. Dwyane Wade’s twitter account made waves in the offseason, when he let the n-word go a few times. He cleaned it up for the public. Brandon Jennings, who’s in town tomorrow night, was in hot water not long after he was drafted when a conversation he had with rapper Joe Budden hit youtube (Jennings used the slur a ton at one point using it for his coach Scott Skiles). Judging by his conversation with the Globe’s Gary Washburn, he’s done a 180 publicly. They realized people were watching their every move so they decided to step wisely.
The other fix is organizational. Some teams have policies about music in the locker room. Music doesn’t play at all in the Celtics locker room. Headphones only, and there’s not a ton of dancing. The atmosphere is pretty business-like, which makes it hard for something like what James did to happen.
James’ image is pretty established at this point, although absolutely nobody is bulletproof. Looks like Hill’s just giving James and a lot of other players something to think about.

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