Basketball Star LeBron James

‘Forbes’ Writer Says ‘LeBron James Should Be Ashamed’ Of Unhealthy Endorsements

Forbes contributor Peter Ubel calls LeBron James the “King of Junk Food,” in a recent column for the business-finance mag.

This just in: not everyone is a fan of LeBron James.

OK, that’s not really new from Cleveland Cavaliers fans, but this perspective comes from that of a loving parent to one of the millions of kids who idolize LeBron James.

In a piece entitled “Is LeBron James Fattening His Wallet By Fattening Our Kids?” Ubel calls attention to the Miami Heat’s tens of millions in annual endorsement income, much of which comes from such benefactors as Sprite (“sugar water”), Powerade (“glorified sugar water”) and McDonald’s (“the place you wash down fries and burgers with sugar water”).

Ubel describes how huge a fan his son is of LeBron James, and—while his son would never admit to liking Powerade because of James, if he even understands the connection—that it’s clear the advertising world has worked its magic on the 13-year-old. Ubel recognizes that LeBron James has a right to make money endorsing whatever he wants, and, conversely, food manufacturers have a right to advertise their products in the way they think is best.

However:

In my opinion, LeBron James should be ashamed to make money endorsing such unhealthy products. So should Peyton Manning, who promotes Pepsi among other fast food items [Papa John’s]. These athletes are already wealthy beyond the imagination of mortals like me. They do not need the money from these endorsements, except to fuel their egos – perhaps their desires to have more power and influence than other athletes, or to top each other in annual earnings.

Clearly Ubel has not heard of the Iowa high school teacher who lost 37 lbs. eating only McDonald’s food for 90 days </sarcasm>.

Ubel doesn’t mean to single LeBron and Manning out at the only perpetrators, mind you; he means to single them out as the biggest perpetrators. He links to a study in Pediatrics, an official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which concludes that of the 512 brands endorsed by professional athletes like LeBron James, food/beverages is the second-largest group with 23.8 percent.

Professional athletes in this sample were associated with 44 different food or beverage brands during 2010. Seventy-nine percent of the 62 food products in athlete-endorsed advertisements were energy-dense and nutrient-poor, and 93.4% of the 46 advertised beverages had 100% of calories from added sugar. Peyton Manningand LeBron James had the most endorsements for energy-dense, nutrient-poor products.

What do you think of Peter Ubel’s indictment of LeBron James? Should LeBron James be more selective about what he endorses?

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