A beloved athlete posts a brief song lyric on social media. Commentators denounce the lyric as offensive and him as a bigot. He says he didn’t know it was offensive, and apologizes. What does it all signify?
It signifies that it is in the interests of the capitalist ruling class to foment division and to blame the oppressed as somehow the real perpetrators of bias and bigotry.
The athlete is Los Angeles Lakers basketball megastar LeBron James. The lyric, which he posted to Instagram Dec. 22, included the phrase “Jewish money” from a rap song by the performer 21 Savage he’d been listening to. Reaction was swift. Sports Business Daily reporter Darren Rovell took to Twitter to express his outrage and call on Jewish people, including National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver, to join him.
Sports Business Daily is owned by Advance Publications Inc., a media conglomerate with vast holdings. These include Conde Nast, which publishes Vogue and Vanity Fair among other magazines; Fairchild Publications, which owns Women’s Wear Daily and other publications; and American City Business Journals, the biggest publisher of metropolitan business newsweeklies in the United States.
SBD is, in other words, a major capitalist media outlet. It posted $2.2 billion in revenues in 2017. Rovell, formerly of the worldwide sports conglomerate ESPN, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, is one of its best-known commentators and a right winger.
In fact, the headline of Newsweek magazine’s Dec. 23 article on this “controversy” characterized James’ Twitter post as “angering conservative critics.”
So a reactionary writer for a website devoted to the profitability of professional sports tries to stir up hostility toward one of the country’s most prominent and progressive Black athletes for an unintended and immediately retracted reference. Although the attempt ultimately fizzled, and did not draw in Commissioner Silver, it did gather some support, mostly on Twitter, where dozens of tweets called James anti-Semitic.
The day after his tweet, LeBron James said on ESPN: “Apologies, for sure, if I offended anyone. … I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn’t through the lens of a lot of people. My apologies. It […]