The Global Icon/corporate shill that is LeBron James has of late found himself on the wrong side of a couple of arguments that he really shouldn't even be in.
We're all familiar with him belittling Stephon Marbury's $14.98 Starbury shoe line while defending his own supposedly superior Nike kicks (likely minimally better at best). This was not the smartest of PR moves, seeing as even people that loathe Marbury sided with the Knick on this one. Marbury even got the last laugh, retorting to James, "I'd rather own, than be owned." Oh, snap!
But now King James has found himself in even hotter water, and this time it isn't about shoes. Or wait, maybe for him it is. The Cavs' Ira Newble recently wrote an open letter criticizing China's role in the Darfur genocide [via TrueHoop], since China is a huge trading partner of the Sudanese government. The Sudanese government has provided the Janjaweed, the primary instigators of the genocide, with money they got from trading with China. Newble has urged fellow basketball players to pressure China to change its trading policy before the 2008 Olympics.
All the Cavs signed on except for Damon Jones and, you guessed it, the Global Icon. The Icon's lame excuse was that he didn't know enough about the issue to take a stand. I guess not enough people have died yet, huh Global Icon? Jones decided not to comment. Both have business interests in China, LeBron most notably with Nike.
Now, I'm not going to go on some crazy rant about LeBron, but I am going to say this. For God's sake man, get a better PR person. This is called a softball, LeBron, you should be able to hit this one out of the park. Whether you sign on for altruistic reasons or PR reasons, I don't care, just sign the damn letter. Nike isn't going to renege your $90 million contract for this. Remember, you do have some leverage here - you're the face of Nike. They're not just going to dump you.
More importantly though, these examples make it pretty clear that the Global Icon doesn't plan on being anything more than a corporate logo - a Michael Jordan duplicate. He won't, however, be an athlete of the standing of Muhammad Ali. Ali didn't become an icon by shilling overpriced shoes and totally avoiding making politically charged statements (and speaking out on Darfur is hardly a dangerous PR move).
So maybe Marbury actually got it right. LeBron is owned, big time. Maybe if he stopped worrying about his bank account he might finally find time to work on his jump shot and have a decent 4th quarter.