It’s generally agreed upon that LeBron James is the most powerful player in NBA history. The Cleveland Cavaliers icon has been referred to as the team’s de facto general manager, influences plenty of decisions within the organization with his opinions, and has increased his leverage with a succession of short-term max-level contracts so that owner Dan Gilbert and general manager David Griffin know it’s in their best interest to please him. Beyond that influence with the Cavs, though, the basketball world simply listens when James speaks. It’s no surprise that his plans to continue standing during the national anthem made headlines and set a new tone for conversations around the league. LeBron James just matters.
We will now see if the same holds when LeBron weighs in on the United States presidential election. James officially endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in an op-ed set to run in Monday’s print edition of the Akron Beacon-Journal, his hometown newspaper. Here’s a sample from Business Insider, where James’s article was first printed online:
I support Hillary because she will build on the legacy of my good friend, President Barack Obama. I believe in what President Obama has done for our country and support her commitment to continuing that legacy.
Like my foundation, Hillary has always been a champion for children and their futures. For over 40 years, she’s been working to improve public schools, expand access to health care, support children’s hospitals, and so much more. […]
There’s still a lot of work to be done in Akron, Northeast Ohio, and all across our great country. We need a president who understands our community and will build on the legacy of President Obama. So let’s register to vote, show up to the polls, and vote for Hillary Clinton.
LeBron’s argument for Clinton touches on three key points — that she will help to rebuild the public school system, make college affordable to all, and address the violence that disproportionately befalls the African-American community. These issues are in line with the priorities he has set for his LeBron James Family Foundation, and he makes explicit connection between that organization, his life story, and Clinton’s policies on several occasions. In fact, discussion of James’s tough childhood and the foundation’s efforts takes up the first half of the op-ed — Clinton’s name doesn’t even appear until the 13th of its 19 paragraphs. The point seems to be that James is supporting Clinton because her priorities align with those of his foundation and his own life experience, not because she has a wealth of experience or comports herself professionally in public.
LeBron does not mention Donald Trump by name, but the Republican nominee’s presence is felt throughout the piece. That’s partially because of LeBron’s working relationship with Gilbert, who reportedly hosted a fundraiser for Trump in Detroit last week. It’s very unlikely that , the difference in support makes an even starker comparison between the NBA’s owners and their predominantly black players, many of whom come from severely disadvantaged backgrounds.
Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that LeBron is the far more popular figure in Ohio, as ever a crucial swing state in November’s election. James is beloved in the state for his role in bringing Cleveland its first major sports championship in 52 years, not his political belief, but his return to the Cavaliers mattered in large part because Northeast Ohio saw him as a native son committed to bettering his community. Arguing that Clinton is the best candidate for president because her interests align with those of true Ohioans could be quite persuasive to some.
Most voters have probably made up their minds at this point, especially when the candidates hold such different views. But Ohio’s 18 electoral votes could make a huge difference in the election. Every endorsement matters, particularly with polls currently so tight. Clinton has to be pretty pleased that LeBron decided to make his support so public. It can only help her campaign.
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