On LeBron’s apology

Last night the Miami Heat won 98-90 in overtime, in Boston to take a 3-1 series lead back to Miami. While LeBron James was fantastic in the victory and finished with 35 points and 14 rebounds, perhaps the most important thing he said in his postgame media presser wasn’t about basketball at all.

After a ridiculously long wait for Dwyane Wade and James to come to the podium — one that had me cringing for beat writers on deadlines — James stopped things before answering a question that was directed toward him and took a moment to right a wrong he committed 48 hours earlier at that same podium.

“First of all…I want to apologize for using the R-word after Game 3. If I offended anyone I sincerely apologize.”

After calling a reporter’s question “retarded” after Saturday night’s loss, James declined an opportunity to issue an apology for his word choice when he had been asked about the comment during the Heat’s shootaround Monday morning. Somewhere between shootaround and the game though, James either had an epiphany that made him realize apologizing if you hurt someone is the right thing to do, or had someone thinking about his image get in touch with him. Regardless of what made him wake up, I’m glad he used an opportunity with all eyes on him to say that he was sorry.

Of course, apologizing by saying, “I’m sorry you were hurt,” isn’t the same as admitting any wrongdoing on his own behalf, but it’s better than nothing. I said yesterday, and I maintain, that I don’t think James was ever intending to hurt or alienate anyone with his unfortunate word choice on Saturday night, but it’s something we all have to be better at. If you know something unnecessarily hurts people, don’t say it. It’s entirely avoidable when there are so many words in the English language to use for “stupid.”

The apology James gave shows that he is sorry he hurt people, but doesn’t show that he realizes or understands why he shouldn’t be using the word in the first place. To be frank, he probably doesn’t. He said the word while being mic’d up in the first place, so it’s likely one he uses without a second thought. I wish it wasn’t like this, but apparently, as so many people have told me on Twitter, it is and this is a word that some people use in their every day vocabulary. That’s still mindboggling to me, but I digress.

The bottom line here is that James owned up to the fact that he offended people and he apologized for that. It might not have been the apology some wanted, but it was something and it was something he didn’t have to do. I’m glad he took a few moments to apologize for any pain his words may have caused and I’m hopeful he won’t want to have to give the same apology again.

I’m also thinking someone should shoot a thesaurus his way the next time he wants to call something stupid.

Comments (19)

  1. There were two overtime games last night and Lebron’s wording of an apology is a feature.

  2. Nowadays you can’t say anything without offending someone else. Certain words have different meanings to people. For people of a certain generation the word retarded has nothing to do with people with special needs. It’s just another way of saying something is dumb. The english language continues to evolve and words will take on different meanings. Is that such a bad thing?

  3. Holly, I think I disagree with your characterization of the apology. It wasn’t a standard “I’m sorry if you were offended.” he directly apologized for using the word, then moved on to people who may have been (and rightly were) offended. I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss his apology as only to people who were hurt when, unprovoked, the first thing he addressed was his apologize for his use of the word.

  4. I think this would have been more offensive if he called the reporter “mentally challenged.”

  5. Good lord. You’re still on this? You really are going to become Rick Reilly.

  6. I honestly think in times like these people over-analyze certain words. LeBron was not referencing handicapped or mentally/physically challenged people (whichever word is now politically correct), and his coment was taken out of context. I agree that it is not right to use this word, but it is used so often by so many people. The word “retarded” has become another word for “dumb” or “stupid.” The word “gay” is used for these same meanings, and though I agree it is wrong, I recognize when it is used in different contexts. I just think LeBron having to appoligize for this is a little crazy..

  7. Don’t agree with you Holly. I hate LBJ and the Heat and I see this as a non-issue. A whole article on this really? Are you same person on Twitter that champion’s Odd Future and their well documented “pro rape lyrics”? I agree that it is different contexts, but I find it contradictory your view on LBJ using the word retarded and your public love for OF.

  8. I don’t think this is a scenerio to compare LeBron’s words to Holly’s music preference. But I believe these words are being taken as their literal meaning when they are being used way out of context. “retarded” and “gay” are used far more often than they should be, but for diferent meanings.

  9. Mike: Odd Future isn’t one of the faces of the NBA, an NBA that has NBA Cares programs and are anti-discrimatory and are supposed to be sensitive to issues such as this. I don’t love some of the words used by Odd Future (I mentioned this on twitter to a follower today, actually). LeBron CAN say whatever he wants. Kobe CAN say whatever he wants, too. I’d prefer for people not to use words that hurt people, but I cannot stop someone from saying whatever they’d like. My biggest issue here is that the league has to decide how it’s going to deal with these things. You cannot fine one guy 100k less than a month ago for a similar situation that occured during a game when he didn’t know with certainty that he was mic’d up (even though what Kobe said is just as bad whether he knew people could hear or not) and then not acknowledge this situation at all.

    Matthew: I’ve heard from a lot of people who were hurt by the word that they’d like a mention that “it was wrong to use the word,” to show people it’s better to just not use it. They didn’t get that. LeBron doesn’t/didn’t have to say anything at all, that’s his right, but I am glad that he chose to say sorry for hurting people as well as apologizing for his word choice.

    jsmart: If I wrote about what I felt he did wrong, it’s only fair to also write the other side of the story. To ignore his apology would be unfair to LeBron, in my opinion. But, yes, PLAYOFF OVERTIME EXCITEMENT. I’m writing on that now. If I can stop responding to comments and emails. :)

  10. As someone who is a huge lebron fan and think that the use of this word is extremely insensitive (Was just calling out Lady gaga for this a few weeks ago), i was pretty satisfied with the unprompted apology.

    I’ve followed this on twitter, and I genuinely am on the same train of thought as Schummann that LeBron (unfortunately) didn’t even know this was an issue or that it was even picked up by the mic.

    Would this elicit the same result (Honestly) had it been Rose? Or Westbrook?

  11. Again I say, I don’t see why retard is a bad word. How is it any worse than saying “stupid” or “moronic”?

  12. PS, I am surprised he hasn’t been fined yet tho…

  13. I reeeeally don’t understand why people are so quick to defend the use of this word. Like, not at all. I can understand not wanting to vilify someone for a slip of the tongue, but to adamantly defend it as non-offensive and “not an issue”? Why? I’m honestly asking. Is it because you feel bad because you’ve said it before? I have too. In the last month probably. Doesn’t make me a bad person. Also doesn’t make it right.

    Also, Mike? OFWGKTA make music. Music is art. Press conferences are not.

  14. Holly, I guess what I’m saying is that what you’re asking for was dealt with pretty clearly in the first apology sentence. If he had just stuck with the second half of his statement, then this could be left up for discussion, but by specifically apologizing for using the word, he’s acknowledging that word choice was inappropriate. Otherwise, what exactly would he be apologizing for?

  15. You guys are being retarded.

  16. Semantics and political correctness have gone too far. Yes, someone in the public eye should be more sensitive to keep the PC contingent happy. But ‘stupid’ by definition means slow to learn. So in using that word, people with learning disabilities should also be up in arms. Let it go. Use your time to volunteer to help people if you’re really concerned. And do it quietly, don’t blog about your good deed afterward.

  17. I sincerely apologize for being a retard. Ups, again.

  18. It was a retarded question. He should have said it louder. I am tired of reporters asking the stupidest questions nobody gives a f**k about. Of course if it were Westbrook you would be defending him but Lebron is ugly as hell so I understand why you are so mad.

  19. I like the way this was written, Holly. Nice Job. I’m not a fan of LBJ, he is human, and a basketball player. People should be able to apologize for mess ups.

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