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

Basketball Star LeBron James

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.


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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9 Responses to “‘Forbes’ Writer Says ‘LeBron James Should Be Ashamed’ Of Unhealthy Endorsements”

  1. Chris Humpherys


    Thanks for the possible inspiration of a piece.

    What a difference a few years makes. It wasn't long ago that Michael Jordan and Larry Bird were pimping Mickey D's on every television set in America. We laud these guys are the greatest to ever play the game. Rightfully so.

    Perhaps Ubel should have a greater relationship with his kid to explain to him the meaning of the marketing dollar in America and how eating McDonald's is okay as long as you don't eat it once a week. Or is parenting too much to ask these days.

  2. Steve Blesson

    May be he's just jealous of LeBron, coz to me this is borderline racism. I mean if he wants to complain about it, why not criticizing the billions dollar making Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Mc Donald's owners???? LeBron is just a kid who grew up poor. Pepsi and Mc Donald's have been around for almost an century now; what can he do about it?

  3. Public Abscess

    Borderline racism? It's on the opposite side of the planet from racism. Ubel mentions Peyton Manning too, probably the whitest man in the world.

    Point out any hint of race, color or ethnicity in that article. You could put the name "Tom Brady" in for LeBron James and change Miami Heat to New England Patriots and it will say the same thing. It has nothing to do with who he is but the choices he makes.

    It's pretty clear he focuses on LeBron because his son admires LeBron, so there's a special connection. He's not singling LeBron out but using him as an example of what he considers a problem in society.

  4. Steve Blesson

    Public Abscess May be he threw in Peyton and Brady's names in it to avoid the racism label after all. But I think you are missing the point: athletes are only the top of the iceberg. Why not going after the bigger fishes????

  5. Steve Blesson

    Another comment to people don't miss out the point. Why not going at the Pepsi and Mc Donald's owners instead of blaming athletes? I mean it's simple, the US senate can have a law to make junk food and soda illegal because it's not healthy. Why insulting LeBron James and saying he should be ashamed?????

  6. Neil N Gabion

    why do you think these owners sign these athletes? just for the sake of them showing off their products? that is why it is call ENDORSEMENT. it somehow translates as "I do/eat this, you do as do."

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