LeBron James has largely remained silent since his July decision. Excluding team appearances/post-game interviews and the infamous CNN interview, James has gone mostly to Twitter to express himself, and that has been largely benign. Today took a twist. James declared Tuesday "Hater Day", which seemed to be a statement in the vein of his "list" tweet, which seemed to be some self-therapy performed on the Internet's stage. But it took a turn when James retweeted a message from a man in Ohio apparently named Ryan Outrich (his Twitter name was @RyanOutrich, before he cancelled his account). It was angry, aggressive and racist. It featured the N-word. Other tweets not retweeted made light of attacks on James and his mother Gloria (including sexual insults about her), as well as invoking lynching multiple times. It's hard to imagine being more offensive in less than 140 characters. You can see the well-known tweet if you visit James' timeline on Twitter; I'd rather not republish it here. James' retweet started off a volley of angry tweets by James fans at Outrich. He tried to respond, apologized and then quickly closed his account, apparently realizing the damage he'd done to his name. A lot of the Heat fans I follow participated in the bashing of Outrich. The stupidly and hate are worth being bashed for. But I was left feeling conflicted. It's something new contributing writer Raul Takahashi nailed on the head on (ironically) Twitter.
God forbid this @RyanOutrich commits suicide or something terrible happens to him. Ignorance is best left alone @KingJames. #humanityWhat this Outrich person wrote was despicable and intolerable. Racism can never be tolerated, and some of the threatening language he used would have been grounds for a police investigation. At the same time, this is some guy with some family, and while Heat fans like to look down our noses now at other fanbases who criticicize James (oftentimes, but not always, fairly), who doesn't think there could be some crazy LeBron James fanboy or fangirl who tries to get back at Outrich? Hell, President Ronald Reagan was almost killed because some look wanted to impress Jodie Foster, and Reagan had nothing to do with her! While I'm more in support of the retweet than against it, there is part of me that feels like this was like a massive army torturing the last weaponless soldier of its opposition. This guy was clearly in the wrong, and is going to get punished, but are we really all going to pile on this thing? He should have never written what was written, but he got a massive stream of venom back. Is that a good thing? I hope you understand what I'm getting at here. Obviously, bigotry in all forms needs to be rooted out and eradicated. And sunshine is the best disinfectant for lurking racism. What Outrich wrote may be the most offensive thing I've ever seen on social media, and that's saying something. But was throwing the bigot to hungry fans looking for an outlet after watching their hero get suckerpunched for three months the right course of action? Probably not. As a great songwriter once sang, "only love can conquer hate." UPLIFTING BONUS: On a lighter note, mentioning Marvin Gaye and basketball allows me to post the fabulous 2008 USA Basketball commercial, featuring the fabulous rendition of the national anthem performed at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game by Gaye. Let no one fool you; it is the greatest version of The Star Spangled Banner ever performed, followed by Jose Feliciano's World Series version in 1968 and Whitney Houston's Super Bowl version in 1991. There is no argument to this. All three are on my iPod, and should be on yours. Watch, listen and enjoy.