Thursday, November 03, 2011

'Villainization of LeBron James'?

What is the media's role in turning LeBron James from fan favorite into the NBA's biggest villain? Recent Penn State doctoral graduate and current Bloomsburg University instructor Jason Genovese has some interesting ideas about that.

Genovese presented his findings Thursday at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Minneapolis. James' "The Decision" began the turn as the superstar forward announced on ESPN in summer 2010 that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. Genovese pointed out a little-publicized fact that ESPN actually sought out James for the broadcast.

Through a textual analysis, Genovese examined how the language of articles did not really mention that James earned the right -- via the players' labor agreement with the league -- to determine where he wanted to play.

Also, columnists placed a heavy burden of three to five championships for James to validate his decision.

The James situation also went past the issue of a superstar leaving a team, delving into racial subjects. The mention of slavery drew sharp dismissals from media members, but the historical/cultural context for the slavery references were ignored.

In fact, any perceived misstep from James resulted in enormous negative reactions from the media. It seemed as though James was never allowed to escape the villain label.

When Genovese publishes his paper, it should be a must read.

--Steve Bien-Aime

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