Dear Mr. James,
I admit I am a Johnny-Come-Lately. I only fell in love with basketball in 2003 when I saw you play. Even though I was living in the SF Bay Area, I rooted for the Cavaliers because I am from Cleveland. I am from Cleveland, where, in first grade, during bus rides, older students threw pennies at me and laughed if they hit me on the head. Why pennies? You know the answer to this, Mr. James. Jewish money. It runs the world, right?
In 2010, I watched “The Decision” and defended you to the haters. I cringed with embarrassment when Dan Gilbert spoke about you like he owned you and I explained to people that this was not how Clevelanders thought of athletes representing our city. I had to explain this because I am from Cleveland. I am from Cleveland, where, in 3rd grade, my classmate pounded my head against the brick wall on the Moreland playground because her family lost their house and, as everyone knows, the Jews control the banks and the money.
After a crushing defeat in the 2015 finals, I still bravely strutted around Warriors’ Country in my Cavalier’s t-shirts because I am from Cleveland. I am from Cleveland where kids followed me home shouting “Kike” and “Dirty Jew” and every couple of months jumped me when teachers were out of sight.
When everyone around me called you a baby after Draymond Green’s ongoing dirty plays finally got him suspended from a game, I defended you. I pointed out how often you are fouled against with hardly a peep. I explained what a mensch you are, citing your ongoing commitment to your hometown of Akron and your personal involvement in your charity work. Then I cried when you finally brought us our first franchise title. I cried with joy because I am from Cleveland. I am from Cleveland where my older brother ended up bruised and bloody because he thought two 6th grade boys pounding on the 4th grade “Jesus Killer” girl was a little unfair.
This year, I showed everyone who followed anything about sports the article announcing your “I Promise” school as proof of what I had always said about you; you are a mensch. I admired you so much that when you announced your move to The Lakers, I went out, bought a #23 jersey, and for the first time ever, followed a player instead of a team, even though I am from Cleveland. I am from Cleveland where, at age 13, when visiting my friend’s country club, a woman noticed my Jewish Star necklace and said, “Oh, you must be a guest, though we would certainly love some Jewish money here.”
Mr. James, “Jewish money” is not a compliment and I am certain you know that. You are one of the smartest famous people out there. Your political and business acumen is evident in every move you make and quotation you post. You know how much Jews are blamed for the ills of the world because of this myth of our control, born from our “Jewish money”. You know that the atrocities of our past rose from the belief that we have been responsible for recessions, depressions, and poverty. You might not know how much violence someone like me, raised in this country and born 30 years after the Holocaust, has experienced. You might not know the crushing, heart deflating realization that people with whom we thought we were close harbor beliefs that Jews have the money and the power. Do they know what this leads to when the world is in pain? If Jews have the money and power, then we are to blame when others suffer. And if we are to blame, then revenge must be enacted.
Mr. James, you can do better. Please do not pretend you thought you were complimenting us. This is a disservice to your own intelligence.
Apologize, for real this time. Not by pretending this was an accident. Apologize for perpetuating the very myth that broke my own body and my own spirit when I was child growing up in Cleveland. Apologize. I have worked to be whole again. So can you.
2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Mr. Lebron James”
Thanks for this. I feel very much the same about James, and I admire the way you’ve invited him to do better.
Bravo, Rabbi Berlin! I will vouch for your proud support of the Cavs in a Shul full of Warriors fans. LeBron’s slur is unconscious and hurtful at the very least. He must know better.
It is painful to think of the brutal bullying you endured as a child, but heartening to hear you use your experience to promote understanding and empathy. I hope that the formidable Mr. James has the courage to wake up and follow your advice.