Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lebron James "Graces" Cover of Vogue Magazine

A few weeks ago, it was announced that Lebron James would become the third male (first black male) featured on the cover of Vogue. We also knew that he would be posing with with Gisele Bundchen - I wonder how Tom Brady felt about this... Anyways, with the release of this week's issue, some are saying that the cover perpetuates racial stereotypes. Typically the cover of Vogue features well-dressed attractive models who are almost certainly smiling. On this cover however, Lebron is wearing raggedy gym clothes and in place of his pearly whites is a horrible animal-like facial expression. Gisele of course is pictured with a flawless smile, wearing a fancy dress, her hair flowing in the breeze.

The King-Kong comparison seems extremely fitting as if you look at their facial expressions. If Vogue wanted to feature Lebron on their cover, that's great, but why not dress him up nicely? We all know Lebron cleans up well. While I don't feel that Vogue intended to be racist, I do feel that they are exploiting Lebron by creating this controversy just to sell a few more magazines. It is unfortunate because they could have gained plenty of publicity simply by having Lebron on the cover. Lebron sells himself, there's no need to stoop to this level.
This isn't the first time a popular magazine cover has decided to conform with racial stereotypes. On the right is a Sports Illustrated cover from March 11, 2002. This photo shows Barkley breaking free of chains and shackles. Rolling stone used a photo of Dennis Rodman with red horns coming out of his head. I don't have as much of a problem with the Rolling Stone cover because a) That photo of Rodman probably didn't require much, if any, photoshopping and b) Rolling Stone is known for its provocative covers. Sports Illustrated and Vogue do not have that history with their covers so they don't get off so easy.

Lebron has done a remarkable job with his image since entering the league. While Carmelo Anthony was busy appearing in "Stop Snitching" videos, James instead chooses to be befriend multi-gazionaire Warren Buffet and do some film work of his own on behalf of Nike, Powerade, and Bubbleicious. Lebron has been able to keep his street-cred while maintaining a squeaky clean image.

I am disappointed that not only did he sign off on the photo itself, but now he sees no problem with it. James told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he was “just showing a little emotion. Everything my name is on is going to be criticized in a good way or bad way. Who cares what anyone says?”

This may be the first slip-up that Lebron has made when it comes to his image. Thus far, Lebron has gotten by without a real agent or manager. Back in 2005 he fired his agent Aaron Goodwin, choosing instead to surround himself with a team of high school buddies led by best friend, Maverick Carter. Carter is not even a certified NBA agent which means that while he is able to negotiate endorsement deals for James, he can't touch anything having to do with the NBA. Should James be trusting his fortune to a guy who's education background goes as far as Akron St. Vincent St. Mary High School? It should be noted that it was Goodwin who negotiated over $135 million worth of endorsement deals for Lebron, not Carter.

Maybe an experienced agent or manager would have been able to come in and protect James here. Maybe it's time that Lebron rethinks his management model and brings in someone who knows what they're doing. He's done great so far, but allowing himself to be exploited like this seems like a rookie mistake made by a manager/agent who wasn't smart enough to think ahead and realize the type of controversy that was going to bring. I don't blame Vogue as much for trying to sell their magazine as I do blame Lebron and his team for allowing themselves to be taken advantage of.


Kyleigh said...

Good post.

Hieu Nguyen Ngoc said...

LeBron James is an athlete that fans can be proud of. He is a young man that is handling his fame and fortune with a maturity and dignity that other super stars could take a lesson from.

Lebron is a sports phenom that our children can look up to. I am proud to be a fan of Lebron James, and I hope he can continue to be a role model for others.
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