Recently, Justice B. Hill of NBCSports wrote an article tearing apart Lebron James. Now, there are a few things he could legitimately put down Lebron for: his near-fight with Joakim Noah, his refusal to shake hands after losing to the Magic, maybe even his propensity to have fun during blowouts.
But to rip into him for singing along to a song? In his own locker room?
That's simply taking LeBashing a step too far. Here is an excerpt from Hill's piece (via the Globe):
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.
Sorry, Justice, but you are completely off base here. Not only is Lebron James in his own locker room, where people like you invade his privacy to nag him with questions about himself and his game, but he was singing a song. It's not like he was spewing profanities at one of the media members, using his foul language to put people down. He was simply singling along to a song.
Hill continues, later in the article:
Perhaps in his private moments, perhaps when the locker room is closed to the prying eyes and attentive ears of the media, the King can use all the debasing language he likes.
An hour before a game, a gathering of mostly white men nearby, he acted the rube.
For the King rubs shoulders with the wealthiest men and women in America — Dan Gilbert,Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates and others whose net worth can keep the economically-distressed city of Cleveland solvent for years. Can you imagine the King walking into a meeting with Gilbert or inviting Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway crowd to his mansion and having songs like, oh, Gucci Mane's "I Get Money" blaring in the background?
It would be an affront to his corporate guests; it would be classless.
I long ago lowered my expectations of star athletes. I learned over the years that many have no more class — or the moral compass — than anybody else in America. What these athletes have is a crafted image, and that image translates to dollars.
I can't judge how every journalist in the locker room felt. Perhaps white men — and they were nearly all white men — have such low expectations of a black athlete like King James that whatever he does doesn't bother them. Play the fool in public, and that's all right with them.
How classless is it to sing a song? Or better yet, is it "classless" just because he used a song associated with urban culture? What if he'd been singing Oasis' Champagne Supernova, with lyrics about "getting high"? With its mellow tune and soft, smooth voice, would that have been okay?
Justice B. Hill is a black man, so it's tough for me to call him out for an article which I believe is racially condescending to his own race. But really, it's hard for me to look at it any other way. Why is it "playing a fool in public" to sing along to a song? If Lebron were to walk into Bill Gates' house, or Rupert Murdoch's house, and they were to be playing The Grateful Dead's Cocaine Habit Blues, should he be offended? Or no, because it's a whiter song, without urban culture attached to the lyrics?
Yes, the words he used are harsh, but they're just words in a song, just like The Grateful Dead talks of cocaine, acid trips, and the rest of a drug-ridden 60's culture. Just like that was a sign of the times, songs with the N-word and the B-word are a sign of today's times. Those lyrics may not be right -- hell, they aren't right -- but it's simply a way for rappers to express themselves and their rebellious natures, just like -- before there were rappers -- artists like the Grateful Dead and Elvis embraced their own.
To go into Lebron's locker room, hear him singing along to a song of lyrics that aren't even his own, and call him "classless" for it, is simply wrong. Classless is the guy who gets into trouble with the law, who cheats on his wife, who abandons his children.
What classless is not, is the guy who sings along to a song in his own locker room, while you and other media members like you just happen to be invading his privacy, trying to report his every move to the public.
Who knows, maybe classless is even the guy who judges someone else, just for singing a song.