July 11, 2009

Talk about ego and image control. Because of King James and the actions NIKE took, they've created a LeBron-Gate. It's so ridiculous.

The first mistake Nike made in the viral video mess that is LeBron-gate was trying to hide something from Gary Parrish. If you dropped Parrish in the middle of Afghanistan he'd emerge with Osama bin Laden's carcass in one hand, the details of John Calipari's new contract in the other, and a cell phone secured between his teeth. Nice work, Nike. Who did you think you were trying to fool, anyway? ESPN? The second mistake Nike made in LeBron-gate?

It underestimated the angry mood of the country toward arrogant mega-corporations who think they can do what they want, when they want. Nike believes that because it runs cute commercials and pals around with handsome athletes, it's no different from a sniveling credit card company or predatory bank.

To many people, Nike is the sports equivalent of those entities. By confiscating video of LeBron James getting his muscled-up head dunked on and subsequently acting like the release of the video is a threat to national security, the company confirmed what many have long believed: Nike is a ruthless corporation no different from other cutthroat companies.

Nike has, after all, been repeatedly accused of running sweatshops. More on that in a moment.

I mean, I'd like LeBron to sign on with the Knicks because they've stunk for so long, but this is Cheneyesque behavior.

There's something about James and Nike that makes this story more stringent than it ordinarily would be. There wouldn't be as much outrage if there were video of Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant getting dunked on. There'd be interest, of course, but James is the most arrogant and guarded superstar in the NBA and Nike is the most arrogant and guarded company in sports. That combination has turned this story from pedestrian to interesting and, until Nike releases the video, it'll stay that way.

It's Nike's corporate-ness which is at the center of this entire fiasco. It's not just the public enjoying watching a giant company feel the pain of stepping on the wrong end of a rake. No rational human being would ever be this angry over a simple dunk video. This isn't about the dunk. This is about rage over the actions of the wealthy and powerful.

What harm would it have done to King James' image? Nothing. Who cares if he got dunked on? John Starks had an incredible dunk on Michael Jordan. Who remembers that now?

Did that dunk hurt his marketing image? Of course not. People should not buy their products until they release the footage so they never do this again. It wasn't a crime scene. The way they handled this situation is Gestapo-like. Only NBA fans would watch it and nobody would care at all. It was just fine for James to have 60 Minutes film him doing amazing things and making him out to be, well, a King, but this is somehow unacceptable to him.

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