A Well Needed Discussion On the LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen Vogue Cover With Ed Berliner

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This is not about LeBron’s talent…he’s one of the best of all time in that regard

Let’s be rational here from the start to dispel any foolishness that will assuredly arise after some read this. There are many White folk across the land whom have everyone’s best interest in mind and live their lives as such. This interview is not critical of them.

This is for those who have turned a blind eye when racist actions of others are not shunned, but supported in silence. For the record, Whites living today did not own slaves, hang people in the town square or don’t for the most part openly support overt racism as in years past. I have to say this, but it’s my opinion that by not immediately admonishing examples of present racism–veiled and otherwise–Whites are doing themselves just as much a disservice as those racist in the past. I challenge anyone to prove that statement wrong. What are YOU afraid of? Why exacerbate a culture of racial uncertainty with collective silence and then complain when Blacks rightfully speak out? Who the hell else is going to speak up and when needed? Until the day I die I will speak my mind without fear. Do Whites think Blacks will shut up when most of us have or had family who were mistreated just because of the darkness of their skin? How about being turned away from a club or restaurant because of a broad ranging dress code, chased around a store even though you have a pocket full of money, felt as though you had to make sure the cop that just passed you is out of sight because you fear getting stopped, asked to turn your back on a preacher who speaks truth about America’s past or have your anger dismissed because of a racist magazine cover that some still try to excuse as something positive even when there is very damning evidence to the contrary?

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It’s the same exact pose. You are delusional if you think not. It’s as simple as that.

Why do some Whites very easily shove under the rug Black rage when obvious situations involving race happen? Why was my father almost killed when he returned to this country, after serving at the American Embassy in Germany, for just wanting something to eat in the South? They cared less he was a Marine who served a tour for his country, so don’t give me some American patriotic bullshit. Why did I myself almost get smacked in the head by a 2 X 4 and my house spray painted with utterly disgusting racist bs, for simply having a clothing line geared to help heal the disease of racism?

Is there a doctor in the house?!?

I mean…what is this switch some Whites seem to employ that shuts off all emotion when someone other than themselves are mad and want (expletive) answers to questions that are never given respect because they’re not relative? I cannot and will not be silent when these things continue to happen. When this cancer ceases, then there will be collective vocal peace from those like me.

Seriously, what is the difference between the Vogue and Golfweek noose cover? I think the Vogue cover is worse because of the multitude of racist implications brought to the surface by the poster it was recreated from. Don’t stutter when you answer because I won’t. Neither will Dwil, Temple3, or Jemele Hill. Now I know the much maligned Wikipedia is heavily scrutinized and dismissed because of its sometimes not so factual content, but here’s how the Destroy This Mad Brute poster is described:

“DESTROY THIS MAD BRUTE” is the caption of this World War I propaganda poster for enlistment in the US Army. A dribbling, ape-like German wielding a club bearing the word “kultur” and wearing a pickelhaube helmet with the word “militarism” is walking onto the shore of America while holding a half-naked woman in his grasp (possible meant to depict Liberty). This is a US version of an earlier British poster with the same image. Dated ca 1917.

Hmmm….500 dollars in Republican money to the first person who picks out the key word in the aforementioned description…Tick, tock, tick tock…..

This ain’t even funny! How do we know Annie Leibovitz didn’t go to Wikipedia, read the above entry and think of LeBron James or damn near any brotha on the street as an gorilla? Are Blacks the German apes to be destroyed because of our infringement on American “kultur” or because some in our community desire to get down get down with “Lady Liberty?

This is all relative. If LeBron has prior knowledge of the existence of the poster, then he’s damn sure not above criticism as well and should be slammed just as much as Leibovitz.

I will not sit back and allow the legend to become fact and then see the legend printed for prosperity to ultimately reconcile in their minds without utilizing other methods of innovative thought.

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I wonder what Hov had to say about all this. No one is above criticism

LeBron sees himself in the world of Jay-Z as a businessman. He’s not just a basketball player and hasn’t been one since he entered high school so please get past that absurd notion. He’s aligned himself with financial mogul Warren Buffett, and has his sights set on becoming a billionaire.

Ed Berliner of the Speeding Bullet Network and TSF have been engaging in a cross promotion while also helping to help folks understand why sports are the way they are. Click on the pic to get a idea of who Ed Berliner really is. We disagree a lot, but I respect him for sticking to his guns and giving his side of what the big picture really is.

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Did you take all that in without prejudice? Probably not, but read this and then judge yourself accordingly….

Ed Berliner: On this topic, it’s amazing the different type of answers…

Michael Tillery: Yeah.

EB: Jason Whitlock…did you read his column? The one where he said he’s really not that concerned about it and that he doesn’t see the reason for all the uproar?

MT: To me that’s understandable without the evidence of the enlistment poster. I think it would be irresponsible of us to dismiss this considering the poster exists.

What’s your opinion of this incident?

EB: I think we are still at a time in our society where people don’t know how to think and are afraid to say what’s on their mind for a number of reasons. I think certainly political correctness. I think there are a number of people that don’t what to say publicly for fear of whom it will impact or whom it may insult. Because of that, we find ourselves pulling back and not giving many times a honest answer. I think there is a lot of honesty out there, but people are afraid to be honest. I think there is a huge part of White America who can’t see the reason why it’s so upsetting. Many people will say here’s a superstar basketball player–the face of the NBA–a young man showing emotion. There’s maybe the hottest supermodel in the world standing next to him and it just looks interesting.

I think you have a lot of people–White and Black–who will say what’s the problem and why are so many people upset?

That’s the knee jerk reaction that everybody will have. The reaction that is always the truest is always the one that happens in a split second and will tell you how people feel about things more often than not. It may not be the answer you are looking for. They might not also give you what you are asking for because they’ve had a chance to think about it. (Hypothetically) What am I supposed to think? What should I say? What is this person expecting me to say?

Many times that knee jerk reaction belies their own feeling toward creed, color, sex…whatever. You’ll almost automatically get whether they are racist, bigoted, hateful, spiteful, joyful…whatever comes in that first second and you can feel it.

I think you will find a lot of people who will look at it and say that it is a…what I like to call it…a contrived controversy. There’s many people out there who will say that.

MT: Contrived controversy on Vogue’s part.

EB: There are many people who will say those people who are complaining about this are trying to create a controversy.

MT: Really?

EB: That is what I’ve heard from more often from more people than anything in the last few days. “Why are we trying to create a controversy here?”

Now, take a step back. The greatest thing that can happen out of any controversy–real or contrived–is discussion.

MT: Yes.

EB: Because the minute you walk away from things and don’t discuss…then you’ve made a mistake. I have no doubt that Annie Leibovitz wanted you to think when she took this picture. I don’t know what’s in her mind. I can’t tell if she patterned this immediately after the World War I poster. It certainly looks that way and she hasn’t answered whether or not that’s where she got the idea for it. Many times, some of the great artistic thinkers of our society, of our culture, do things that are looked upon as hateful, spiteful, wrong, demeaning, insulting–however you want to call it–but it is meant to make you think. If she’d come out and said it’s about time we’d starting talking about interracial couples and how people feel about them and how we have hopefully gotten past the bigoted idolatry of 80 years ago. If she’d come out and say that people would look at her and say…OK thanks.

MT: That’s an interesting point and I can’t even look at it on that level because of the existing stereotype of a Black man as a gorilla.

EB: See also there are people for instance..maybe this is me…I tend to think of myself as pretty open–always have been. I try to hear all points and I’ve been around for a long time. I looked at that picture…when I looked at it…again here comes that immediate reaction. When I looked at it, I didn’t see gorilla. I didn’t see animal. I didn’t see anger. I saw one of the best players in the NBA–a young man–excited and trying to make a point to the world like “Here I am!”. That’s the first thing that I saw. I would hope that that’s what a lot of people would see. I hope they would not see a gorilla. Anyone that did see a gorilla is a frightening racist of an unbelievable ilk. That is a stereotype that was started many decades ago and was perpetuated throughout the twenties, thirties, forties and fifties and hopefully sixties and seventies we started to get away from that.

I think people are a little more intelligent to think that, but I will agree with you. I have no doubt that some people looked right at that and said, “Look at the ape”. No doubt. I hope that was the minority amongst both Black and White. That brings up another issue…and this comes down to the discussion issue…if you Mike are one man, one person…and you and I certainly commented on the network the other day–brilliant comments–but when somebody hears you say that, no one can say well I don’t know why he feels that way. You can’t say that. You have to take what you’ve said and you have to then talk about it and say why does he feel that way? That’s part of the discussion factor here. The people who would discount what you would say who would immediately take out of hand would say c’mon this is just one guy whose upset. It’s not one guy. One guy begets ten, begets one hundred, begets a thousand, begets a hundred thousand, begets a planet.

Annie Leibovitz may have seen that, may have sought to do that. If Annie did, then she has succeeded. Artists are a lot of times the ones who tear down our stereotypes and make us think about things that are completely out of the realm of what we would ever think of at any other time in our life.

Filmmakers do it. Musicians do it. Television writers do it. Actors do it in many instances. The fact that we are talking about this is a success of the picture because it has opened wounds that need to be discussed and closed. I hope it creates more of an atmosphere of a discussion than an atmosphere of derision. Otherwise we’re throwing spit and vinegar at each other..you did this and it’s racist…you’re oversensitive…well you don’t understand what’s it like to be Black…well we’ve given you everything…well…you see what I’m saying, it has no end.

MT: Yes. Let me say this Ed and I’m sure this is an opinion shared by a lot of Blacks. It’s one definitely felt by me. I feel in this type of forum there isn’t a White objective voice that comes out immediately.

Like you said earlier about people being afraid to talk, but we all know right from wrong. This is the biggest question that I have, but why aren’t Whites held to the same standard when it comes to their athletes and also why don’t they speak out en masse immediately?

EB: I can answer that. I understand what you are saying, but when you look at the issue…See I think what we have to do too is take the issue and look at it and maybe this looks too deep..but when you look at the cover and look at the picture–just the picture–it’s easy to get one idea of what’s going on. If you look at the lower part of the cover it says Secrets of the best bodies….Gisele and LeBron.

MT: Yeaaaaaah…but…

EB: Here’s what I’m telling you what people are seeing. Here’s what they see, there is LeBron James—arguably one of the best players–certainly one of the best game players today and certainly the future of the NBA.

Now LeBron James is a basketball player so they want to see LeBron James as an basketball player. You can’t put him in a Cavaliers uniform because the NBA won’t allow it.

MT: True.

EB: He’s in sneakers, he’s in shorts, he’s in shorts much like he would be normally dressed on court with a basketball. Those are the tools of his trade.

Now look at Gisele. The tools of her trade are a pair of heels. a tight dress and well done hair.

MT: True.

EBL In essence, the magazine is presenting each of these people–professionals in their craft–Best bodies as they put them doing what they do best. Doing what they are known for. They are not removing them from their element. LeBron is basketball, Gisele is a beauty. Here’s what it is. Certainly you can’t argue that both are in great shape.

What I’m pointing out here is that what people have been seeing when they look at it and I think that a lot of people are going to look at it and say, OK there’s nothing wrong with it. I will tell you that I’ve had some people tell me that this is a very open discussion of interracial relations. As some people have pointed out and here’s the discussion factor, is that ten years ago it would have been difficult on a major publication to see a Black man with his arm around a White woman. It still rings untrue to a lot of people. There’s a number of people out there–both Blacks and Whites–who don’t like to see an interracial couple at all. They still rail against it, but now you are able to see it and he has his arm around her. There’s physical contact..it’s not as if they are standing off distant from each other. They are close. Two of the best bodies in the world.

You’re right. You and so many others see it in a different way. People discounting the way you feel is the bigger crime than the cover. We shouldn’t throw anybody under the bus ’cause they did it. We can criticize them. We can be angry with them. We then have to ask why and then why not as long as there is a furthering of the discussion on relations between Blacks and Whites.

MT: See…I’m still having difficulty. I can’t get past it. I was really dissecting the World War I poster…the club with “kultur” and it’s bloodied, the same dress–obviously a little bit different in color. The curled hair. Gisele is usually not seen with curly hair. LeBron having the same exact facial expression (I could feel myself getting heated again). The basketball replacing the bloody club symbolic of culture. It’s really hard for me to distinguish a way for Annie Leibovitz to think this would come out as something positive for all people.

That’s my biggest gripe here.

If it’s not good for all of us, it’s not good for any of us.

I’ve said it many times in commentary on your site, but there’s no way this picture wasn’t taken from the Destroy This Mad Brute picture.

EB: Would you then say that if it was and here comes what’s always been my forte–the devil’s advocate–that if that were the case, then Annie Lebovitz, Gisele and LeBron all knew…

MT: No, I don’t think they did at all. Honestly, if LeBron did, there’s something wrong with him. Point blank.

Who does he represent? Who is he trying to represent? What is he trying to be?

EB: He’s trying to be himself. He’s trying to be an excited young man with a basketball. He’s a basketball player.

The other thing I found interesting is that I’m hearing people say that LeBron can race up the court with a basketball and a supermodel in his hand. They could be totally covering it up. They could be honest about it. I think as a people…and maybe this is just me…but I’m not looking for four, five, six layers underneath. I tend to look at things as they are. When you talked about the poster, you made me think about it. You made me look at it and you made me consider it. When i looked at it, I said you’re right! It does look a lot like that. I can see where anybody can be insulted by this. I get it.

The bigger issue with me is why did they do it, because again art has a way of imitating life and creating surreal life. The bigger issue is why someone wouldn’t understand why it would impact Mike Tillery and others the way it has.

MT: When I watch a movie for instance–especially being a writer–I want to know why the scenery is in the set the way it is. What is a chair in a certain place symbolic of?

Take away the bloody club, the Destroy This Mad Brute and all the other words in the poster, but when you add these things, it becomes something evil. If you are going to characterize an American boy in such a terrorist manner–especially in these times when we closely look at anyone coming on to our soil. I think if America at large were able to see these pictures side by side, there would be a lot more diversity in the responses instead of everyone being so dismissive.

EB: I’m going to play devil’s advocate again here. We do not know what they were thinking, so we have to extrapolate.

MT: We don’t know what LeBron or Gisele was thinking.

EB: Gisele is a supermodel, she gets paid to appear on Vogue. Here’s what they put me in this is what I’m told to look like so that’s my job.

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Gisele’s career earnings dwarf those of Tom Brady’s. I only say this to acknowledge her financial worth

MT: That’s her job.

EB: LeBron is showing emotion. Let me back up a second. Lets get the poster and Vogue side by side. On the WWI side, you have an angry depiction. You have fear. You have the racial bias of the time. You have the fear of invasion in war. You have all of these things. You have a negative stereotype. No matter how you look at it, that poster is negative. It is meant to elicit a response based on the era it was created in. There was a fear of German. There was a fear of invaders. There was a society that was much more lily White at the time and much more racially bigoted, built on much more racial hatred than there is today–or rather much more racial dismissive about anything unless you were White.

Now I’m going over to Vogue. Here is–instead of a nondescript woman–the top supermodel of the day. Instead of an animal, here is the top NBA player of the day. There’s nothing to fear in this as I look at it. I don’t and I think a lot of people don’t come away with fear. Again, I hear what you are saying and I understand how you can feel that way. I can also understand why some people would look at this and say it’s a basketball player and a model. It’s not always correct, but Sigmund Freud once said, “A banana sometimes is just a banana”. Sometimes what we see is in reality what it is. However, sometimes it’s not. There’s a victory from both sides to talk and say what were you thinking?

I think you have a fair question regarding Leibovitz and Vogue in saying, “What were you thinking? Do you realize how this hurt people?” From the other side I think it’s fair for Annie Leibovitz and Vogue to say, “What were you thinking? It’s just a picture.” This leads back to the discussion of people saying I know why Mike Tillery feels the way he does. I get it and he’s got good reason to be. I didn’t walk in his shoes and I don’t know what his day to day life has been since he’s been born so I at least–as a thinking logical human being–at least open myself up and ultimately ask “Why?” Let’s open up the floor so in the next situation–and it’s going to happen again–hopefully there will be a little more sensitivity on both sides. I don’t compare this to the Golfweek cover. The Golfweek cover was possibly one of the most insulting, twisted, wrongheaded things I’ve ever seen put in print at least in my lifetime. I can’t believe that no one could do that. There’s no other way for that to be taken.

MT: Let me say this Ed. See I find this worse. They could have had LeBron and Gisele in some other pose. It just didn’t have to be something exactly like the poster. He could have been on the other side. She could have been laying down. He could have been flying through the air dunking the ball. It could have been anything besides what it is. This is akin to having Tiger Woods’ face transposed onto a Black man hanging back when that was going on. That’s what I see. I’m trying to be objective here. I’m even more struck in a negative way after having this conversation and not speaking of you particularly with this other picture existing.

You would think that coming from her social standing, that Annie Leibovitz–coming from who she is as a person–especially the way she lived her life until her partner’s death. You would just think she would have a certain level of consciousness that would prohibit her from depicting this in this way. There could be so many other poses. Is Gisele Lady Liberty? Are we the German invaders of the future?

EB: Why don’t you just answer the question. Is she? She’s not being held below the waste and being dragged. She’s standing. Maybe she said basketball model and stuck them together so she stuck them from left to right. Is it possible yes, improbable no.

MT: See I can’t see this as a coincidence. My children’s children can go to their grave and no one along the line is going to think this is a coincidence.

EB: It’s good that you brought up your kids. I think White and Black it’s up to the parents to at least start conversation so we look at this differently the next time this happens…but that’s not going to happen.

Peter Roby. I don’t know if you know Peter, but Peter is a very good friend of mine. He’s the head of the center of Sports and Society at Northeastern University. He’s done a lot on race relations, drug abuse, violence against women. There’s so many things he might excel in. Peter was a coach. Peter played basketball and Peter and I spoke about this recently. Peter’s comments are going to be up on the site shortly and he also believes that we should talk. Vogue has definitely done itself no service by not at least saying something in the last couple of days. Then again Vogue reaches a very specific audience. They’re not going to take a stand. They don’t cater to a sports audience but more to a fashion audience which is why you see very few men on the cover of Vogue. It speaks to more of a female audience. To be honest, you don’t know what goes on in their heads at Vogue. There may be as you and others have pointed out, there may be people at the top of the chain who don’t get it.

I find it hard to believe that in the 21st century, for a magazine such as that would be so blatantly evil to say we are going to insult a culture and an entire race of people, but I’ve been proven wrong before. That would be the ultimate in insult. It would astound me that they would show their racist and bigoted side to the world–that is if there is one.

Annie Leibovitz needs to say something.

MT: She’s the person who could set a lot of things straight. She could even take Vogue off the hook. Annie Leibovitz’s reputation is such that I think a lot of publication trust her on her own merit.

EB: In the same breath, let us not forget that Annie Leibovitz takes the pictures for Vogue. She’s paid by Vogue. Vogue still has the ability to say yay or nay. She doesn’t make the decision of what’s goes on the cover. Annie Leibovitz could just come out and say, ” I just took the pictures”. Has Annie Leibovitz ever seen that poster? We don’t know. It’s possible.

MT: Yeah..it’s possible but Annie Leibovitz is a pretty progressive person. She shot (John) Lennon (for Rolling Stone) on the day he died. That picture will follow her around forever.

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One of Leibovitz’s most famous photos

EB: You remember that he’d taken the pics well in advance so she did not know that was gong to be the last picture. Many times that’s what happens with artists. It’s like Heath Ledger who took an accidental overdose and died. His last role was a very macabre figure in the Batman series. It was twisted. many people now are saying that is going to be one of the greatest posthumous appearances in film history. It was groundbreaking.

Annie and Vogue would be well spoken to say something.

MT: Like I told you before, I wouldn’t want their apology. I don’t think the Black community needs their apology. It would appear contrived.

EB: Compared to the Golfweek cover, it definitely would appear contrived. Golfweek reacted immediately because they had to. You looked at the cover and it was almost diabolical in many ways. You didn’t have to put it side by side to another cover. It was right there in your face. To their credit they apologized and removed the person in charge. They’ve moved ahead, but at least they’ve listened.

You wonder if anyone is listening here. I have to take LeBron James at his word.

MT: Blacks have a problem with LeBron saying it doesn’t matter.

EB: He certainly has something to say to the Black community. He needs to.

MT: He needs to. This is the situation here. You have a White kid–for the sake of the conversation obviously–a White kid who is pretty well off. He’s able to go to all of LeBron’s games. He’s wearing all of LeBron’s gear. On the other hand you have a snotty nosed Black kid in the ‘hood playing in the alley with glass all around, shooting a deflated ball into a milk crate. This situation arises. The White kid says, “Look LeBron he’s posing with Gisele..wow!” The Black kid is saying “Why Daddy?” That’s what he’s saying in almost every instance. I can pretty much guarantee it.

So when LeBron says to America that he doesn’t have a problem with this, who is he serving? Who is he forgetting? Who is he pandering to? Who is lost in a state of consciousness? That little Black kid.

EB: Again, playing the devil’s advocate, is he showing Black kids that you can grow up, be a superstar player and be on the cover of a wildly popular magazine with his arm around the top supermodel in the world showing everyone that he can be more than just a kid on the basketball court?

MT: Yes that’s true, but we aren’t built that way Ed. I wish that was the case. I wish we didn’t have to look at things on so many levels, but we have to because it’s just the way it is.

EB: Well you have those two instances. They one you just gave and the one that I just presented. Hopefully out of both of those therein comes the discussion. The kid that says why is he doing that and smacking his own race in the face will create conversation to make sure it doesn’t happen again to where anything like this will be insulting enough to a child or anyone.

On the other side, the (White) kid will say wow, that’s what it’s really all about, holding super models in their arms. I don’t know but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about more than that. It’s about the sum of your experiences. You would hope that there would be more conversation with the races.

MT: You would hope Ed, but it hasn’t happened in the past.

It has never happened.

Why is it going to happen now?

These athletes come from the ‘hood for the most part. Their initial support comes from the Black race before anybody hears about who the hell they are–with the exception of Tiger obviously. When it comes to most of these basketball players, baseball or football players, they are not from whence they came. Once they get to a certain level, they have assimilated. They are gone. Then it becomes a depiction of the example I gave earlier (on a different level). It’s like they have forgotten about their Blackness. The fact that they do not speak up and speak out about these issues it propagates a bunch of questions for the Black race again.

EB: You are certainly right. Now who is the one who should be asked to respond the most…Vogue, Annie Lebovitz or LeBron James? The argument you just made it seems that LeBron James is the one that needs to address this.

MT: I only say LeBron because nobody else is. That’s just the way we are as people. We react, we speak. Seriously, what other race in this universe speaks up besides Black people?

EB: And you should.

MT: We shouldn’t. It shouldn’t be that way. We shouldn’t have…

EB: If there are still wrongs to be righted, then you should speak up.

MT: Somebody obviously has to speak out but this is terribly frustrating.

EB: I can hear it in your voice. I understand.

MT: The fact we are even having this conversation after Tiger Woods… we are at the same (crossroads) and an athlete has the same reaction.

I’m more interested right now in that little kid. That little kid in the ‘hood is all I care about. He’s my only priority right now. He’s the one I’m speaking to. He’s the one I’m trying to build up consciously, mentally and ultimately physically through his talent. If he doesn’t have a well rounded perspective on these sort of things ultimately he’s going to be lost through his physicality.

EB: Who has to answer the questions? I’ve thought from the first minute that it’s LeBron James. I think that you feel as well as others that he has left his race behind.

MT: My perfect scenario would be to have pr (public relations) from Vogue (because that’s all you are gonna get), LeBron in the middle and Annie Lebovitz on the other side and I see cameras flashing. That’s not going to happen, but that would go so far to help the racial problems in this country. Throughout this entire conversation Barack Obama keeps flashing through my mind, but I won’t even go off on that.

In my opinion, and on a scale of one hundred, Blacks have come 90% here on this issue en masse–at least the people I’ve personally spoken with. The people I know and the people that have come on the site. Of course it’s not indicative of the entire population of Black folk..no.

Whites have come that 10% begrudgingly. We have put our necks out there again for the world to scrutinize and when it comes for Hall of Fame induction the atmosphere that will grow and grow (from this point) from things like this will rear its ugly head when people go to cast their vote for LeBron James for the HOF. That’s what has happened with numerous athletes from Reggie Jackson (strikeouts even though he’s one of the greatest clutch hitters of all time) to guys that haven’t gotten in (Albert Belle). Maybe the reason why LeBron isn’t talking because of (past athletes) being outspoken (and paying for it).

He owes it to first Blacks and then Whites to speak out right now.

EB: This all starts again with the discussion. It doesn’t start with hate, terrorism, dropping bombs or war, but though talking. Civilized people should be able to have a civilized discussion. We’re never going to agree on everything, but coming to some sort of understanding that this is why it hurts or this is why I get this. That’s where it has to start. We have to have the discussion before angry discourse.

I really think the Black community deserves answers more importantly from LeBron James or from Vogue or Annie Leibovitz at this time.

There needs to be dialogue with him asking what went through your mind? He might continue to say he really doesn’t care, I was having fun. He needs to speak up because the Black community is so upset over this.

MT: I’m so emotional when it comes to this.

EB: I know you are. You are more emotional now than you were the other day.

MT: One day I will write a piece called They see their sons highlighting how races differ on issues. When I see LeBron I do see my son. That’s why I guess it’s so hurtful. If LeBron comes out and says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t see the first poster and if I did, I wouldn’t have done the shoot”.

Everything will be cool, but then, he’s going to piss off another segment of people. What is his priority here? Does he want the money of corporate sponsors who might be offended by his words on this defending his Blackness? There will be a backlash if he does. Those simple words will suffice. Vogue and Annie Leibovitz, while not absolved, become irrelevant.

EB: I think Vogue and Annie Leibovitz shouldn’t be absolved from the start when it comes to the Black community.

MT: Yes, but if LeBron comes out and says why did Vogue do me this way, then someone else has to speak up. Someone else definitely has to speak up.

EB: Knowing what I know about these sort of things, LeBron knew about the picture, his agent knew about the picture, the Cavs might have known about the picture. In the corporate world of the NBA, someone under contract knows very little unless people know about it. Very little.

MT: You have more experience than me in that regard so that may be true. Maybe the athletes themselves play the dumb role when it comes to answering some questions that we both have in mind right now.

EB: In many instances, athletes are like people–they’re dumb. In many instances as well athletes are like people–pretty damn smart. Let me say this in my experience of being around leagues and games. A multi-million dollar that the NBA is with a player like LeBron James who is a helluva basketball player and is a good guy who is not a jerk. Who is the face of this league now and probably well into the future. The sponsors that are tied to LeBron James through his various agents, whomever, think about all of these people that are around him. This may not be a lot of solace here, but people are watching after his money from endorsements, they are watching after his money in terms of commercial sponsorships. The NBA is watching over him so he does not bring them any ill repute. The Cleveland Cavaliers are watching over him. On any given day for an athlete like LeBron James, there are anywhere from 20 to 50 people who know everything that player is doing. For a shoot like this from Vogue, LeBron may not have seen the final pictures, but a whole lot of other people did–Black and White. They gave it a stamp of approval. Not just Annie Leibovitz, not just Vogue but a lot of other people. Now we are in another instance here. What does that say? Does that say there are a lot of insensitive people out there? Does it say there are people out there who don’t see the problem? Does that say this was a grand idea to start a discussion? Rest assured there’s a whole lot of people out there who won’t hurt their meal ticket.

MT: I look at this almost like a crime scene. A cop walks up on a crime scene–and this is my perspective and the reason why I’m so upset. Consider me the cop here. I walk up to a crime scene and I’m going to see a lot more than what the average citizen will see because this is my job. It’s what I do. So after numerous examples of me looking at things like this, it would be stupid and irresponsible of me to not raise questions. Raise questions so people will either say to themselves you have a point, or you’re playing the race card. Then there are going to be a lot of people in between. I’m the cop here I have to do my job. I can’t let people walk all over the crime scene without first getting all my evidence. I see a lot of evidence against whoever said go to this cover shoot knowing there was this existing WWI poster. That’s the most damning evidence here.

EB: To me the evidence is pretty well out there. From my experience in covering sports for God knows 3000 years plus. It still comes down to the fact that if you ask me to concisely wrap up my thoughts in all this…more than Annie Leibovitz, LeBron James were at this shoot. More people saw this, more people looked at it. More people Ok’d it. More people than you are aware of did not see an issue or then saw an issue that would create discussion or they saw an opportunity for a young superstar to maybe change some minds. Rest assured that didn’t sit totally on the board room at Vogue.

MT: I was born in 1968. So in terms of sports you had the Mexico City Olympics (Black fist protest, George Foreman, Spencer Haywood) and also Martin Luther King being assassinated. So everything around me, even though I was an infant, penetrated my psyche. Maybe I am a little different than most, but it is helpful to us (Blacks) if we do not forget about our past. It seems like this is what White America wants us to do as if it is gone and over with.

EB: I don’t think it’s fair to generalize like that.

MT: OK. Until there is a Black President or numerous Blacks in professional league ownership or Black coaches in Division 1 football.

EB: You don’t hear what I’m saying.

MT: I understand, but that’s how we have to look at it Ed. We have to. You can count on one hand the number of Division 1 football. I mean come on!

EB: You are right, but I don’t think that speaks to all…

MT: You have a point Ed and I would include you in who I consider good guys just by having this conversation….

My recorder ran out, but it I have to say I totally respect Ed Berliner for taking the initiative and having this conversation with TSF. Here’s a book that has the poster as its cover. Read the book description. I got the link from Dwil’s post on the subject. This controversy hit me hard for some reason. I hope that LeBron understands what’s going on around him and judges his camp accordingly. I implore those who disagree to speak freely and offer their reasons why this maybe overblown or “pulling the race card”.

two_black_boys.jpg
What about them? They deserve the respect and love from the nation just like anybody else

52 Responses to “A Well Needed Discussion On the LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen Vogue Cover With Ed Berliner”

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