Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James began wearing Nike basketball sneakers with the word “equality” stitched on the heel from the start of the 2017-2018 NBA season. The labeling was apparently a non-verbal protest against the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. On several occasions, James — who campaigned with Hillary Clinton in Ohio during the 2016 presidential campaign — has vocalized criticism of the president.
Global sports apparel and shoe manufacturer Nike announced today that it is giving away 400 pairs of the limited edition, black or white, signature LeBron James Equality sneakers in an online raffle as part of an inclusion initiative. Cleveland.com asserted last fall that the basketball shoes “became an instant hit with fans.”
In the spirit of the equality message, “LeBron wanted every person to have an equal opportunity to participate in getting a pair of the shoes,” Nike added.
One entry in the random drawing is free. Multiple entries are $10 each. According to Nike, “For LeBron, Equality means that no matter your race, no matter your background, no matter who you are, we all have the power to stand up and speak for something.” Proceeds from the entry fees will be donated to Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Business Insider reported several years ago that LeBron James’ business partner implied that the three-time NBA champion’s lifetime contract with Nike is worth about $1 billion.
On his Periscope broadcast this afternoon, Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis discussed the LeBron James-Nike Equality branding in the context of what is often described as virtue-signalling.
“LeBron James is selling a tennis shoe with equality written on the back of it, which is made by slave labor overseas. The irony of this decision is mind-blowing. There are effective slave laborers sitting there making Equality sneakers so that LeBron James in America can pat his chest, and all the social justice warriors out there can say ‘my god look how brave LeBron James is; he is in favor of equality.’ The reality is this: The LeBron James Equality shoes are made in a fundamentally unequal way. And the money made from the LeBron James Equality shoes will be distributed in a fundamentally unequal way…”
Travis is referring to allegations that Nike has historically obtained its shoes made in sweatshops in Asia that also employed child labor. Over the years, however, Nike significantly improved working conditions in those facilities. An August 2017 article published by the Quartz website, however, claimed that “Nike’s sweatshop problem is threatening a comeback.”
Clay Travis went on to say that the four-time NBA most valuable player has other options to create equality.
“If LeBron James wants equality, he’s welcome to give away $700 million and live like the average American does…if he’s in favor of equality, he can lift many people out of inequality and put them right smack-dab on the plane of equality. Instead, LeBron James…is going to make lots of money, alongside of Nike, a major multibillion dollar corporation, pulling the wool over people’s eyes selling a tennis shoe with the word ‘equality’ on it…”
Travis began the discussion by wondering why Nike is embracing equality now, since virtually everyone in America already favors equality.
Watch the Clay Travis discussion of the LeBron James Equality shoe promotion (Note: NSFW for language) below and draw your own conclusions.
Last June, Clay Travis expressed skepticism about the racial graffiti vandalism at LeBron James’ second home in Los Angeles, suggesting that the incident might be a hoax because of missing evidence.
In the recent drama between James and Fox News Channel anchor Laura Ingraham, Travis maintained that the First Amendment is a two-way street, making Ingraham’s criticism of James, and James’ criticism of Ingraham, fair game. He also pointed out that Ingraham has a long history of mocking liberal entertainment celebrities, regardless of race or gender, who weigh in on politics.
Travis has also been one of the media pundits consistently ripping ESPN for its struggling business model (comparing it to the defunct Blockbuster Video) and for its emphasis on social justice issues, rather than just delivering games and game highlights, thereby alienating a significant portion of its audience. You may also recall Travis’ famous or infamous CNN interview with an outraged Brooke Baldwin in September 2017 when he revealed the two things that he believes in completely.
LeBron James again becomes a free agent after this season, prompting speculation that he may leave the Cavaliers for a second time to join another team that is better positioned to compete for an NBA title.