One day in my Sports Psychology class, the professor showed us a picture of a recent Vogue magazine cover featuring NBA star LeBron James and supermodel/ Tom Brady girlfriend Gisele Bundchen. Our professor gave some background to the picture, saying that it was the first time a black man had ever been on the cover of Vogue. The professor then entertained the students’ thoughts on the cover. My friend Kendral and I, the only students of color in the class, had already heard about the picture and the controversies it was generating and decided to keep quiet in the back to hear what the rest of the class had to say. Some thought the picture was funny, some thought it was scary, and some thought it was cute. Some said LeBron looked huge, scary, and angry, and Gisele looked really good. Some thought it was great for LeBron to be the first black man to make the cover and didn’t see anything wrong with it. Finally, Kendral raised his hand and said that the picture makes LeBron look like King Kong and it’s controversial because portraying black people as monkeys or gorillas is kind of racist.
So is the picture really racist? People who like the picture could say that LeBron’s “pose” is an accurate portrayal of him as a player because the man truly is a beast on the court. You could also say that LeBron is showing a lot of intensity and aggressiveness, which he definitely shows in his game, and that dressing him in a sleeveless warm-up (which I’ll get back to later) helps to portray his strength.
People who hate the picture could see LeBron portrayed as a giant, snarling, black gorilla-man who knows nothing in life but dribbling basketballs and snatching up white women. You could say that the photo makes him look big, dumb, and scary, and is only impressive because it is able to portray every stereotype of a black athlete in one shot.
So who is to blame for this controversial picture making the cover? Is it the people at Vogue, who had failed for over 100 years of the magazine’s existence until this point to put a black man on their cover? Maybe they just thought black people had no style until now? Speaking of style, LeBron is considered to be a fashion-conscious guy and is usually seen looking pretty clean when he’s not in uniform. Not to mention he has his own LBJ23 shoe and clothing line, and happens to be a multimillionaire. So why not dress him up in a suit? Did the Vogue people need him to throw on a sleeveless shirt to remind everyone that all black athletes love to riddle themselves with tattoos these days? The photographer said that she thinks LeBron and Gisele look great together and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks (well lady, they think you’re a racist).
Maybe LeBron is the one to blame, who also said that he doesn’t care what people think and fully approves of the picture. What does this say about him as a person? Is he really as racially conscious as he makes himself appear in Darshan’s post? Maybe not, or maybe this one magazine cover is blown way out of proportion.