November 25, 2010
Since the moment he took his talents to South Beach last July, citizens of Cleveland have ramped up their hate for LeBron James(notes) to amazing levels. There have been websites, organized merchandise bonfires, and enough videos to clog up the YouTube servers, all to announce the Cleve's hatred for their one-time savior.
Yet all this righteous anger is little more than a run-up to LeBron's first game back in Cleveland on December 2. Anticipating an ornery crowd, the Cavs have decided to take new measures to ensure James's safety. From Chris Broussard on ESPN.com:
To ensure James' safety, there will be dozens of extra police officers on hand, both uniformed and undercover. Officers will be stationed inside and outside the arena, and many will be positioned by the Heat bench and at the tunnel where the Heat players will enter the court.
"Honestly, I'm a little bit afraid," one member of the Cavs organization said. "Some people don't care. Their mentality is '‘I've got to get this off my chest.' There's so much negative energy around this game. People aren't excited about the game itself. They're just like, '‘I can't wait to do something.' " [...]
The team has done research on the various crude and offensive James T-shirts in circulation locally, and officials will be stationed at entrances to make sure no fans enter with such shirts or signs that disrespect James or his family members. They'll also be in the stands, authorized to take away inappropriate apparel. Fans who have such shirts will be required to remove them and then will be given a Cavaliers-branded T-shirt to wear instead. All inappropriate signs also will be confiscated and officials will be on the lookout throughout the game for inebriated fans or fans who are preparing to throw things onto the court.
Kudos to the Cavs for not saying to hell with their former star and skimping on security. That would be irresponsible, of course, and a terrible thing for any franchise to do. But in the wake of Dan Gilbert's Comic Sans rant on the night of The Decision and various other attempts to say the franchise now won't sell out its morals for one player, any instance of the organization acting with maturity should be met with applause.
Then again, I can't help but think that Gilbert and Co. helped stoke the fires of LeBron discord this summer. Changing their mind is fine and a positive development, but the Cavs still justified and condoned the hate by acting like James was a no-good jerk who doomed the franchise with his greed and bad attitude. The reality is obviously more complicated: he helped put the Cavs back on the NBA map after years of wandering through the lottery.
Increased security measures are a necessary precaution for this game. But if something bad happens during the game, the Cavs shouldn't act as if they did everything possible to protect LeBron. If that were the case, they would have handled the post-Decision fallout much differently.