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LeBron James, Through Politics, Just Gained A New Fan. . . Me

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LeBron James is a one-in-a-century athletic talent, an Adonis with magnificent skill. But it is James’ consciousness in this frustrating era where mega-star athletes (Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, in particular) are meek and cowardly on political issues that truly elevates James to another plateau.

James is standing tall beside President Obama and his perpetually under fire Affordable Care Act. Known as “Obamacare,” the president’s defining initiative meets a critical deadline on March 31, with open enrollment on HealthCare.gov ending. It could be called a buzzer-beating play, with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) enlisting celebrities popular with young adults, including several in sports, to raise awareness and promote the merits of signing up.

This is where James showed that he has more awareness and, significantly, more courage than today’s super-rich, high-profile athletes who hide behind stacks of money to avoid a controversial stand, in fear someone might be alienated.

Not James. He will film a 30-second a public service announcement encouraging younger adults to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, a position that plants him firmly on the side of the president and opposite millions of his fans who are Obama-haters.

To that, James admirably said: “I can’t worry about that. Especially who I am. I mean, I know that everything that I do is going to be bigger than what it should be or blown out of proportion. But what I believe in and the people that I support, is what it’s all about. So I can sleep comfortably at night.”

Contrast that to Jordan, who famously would not endorse a Black Democratic candidate running in North Carolina against noted racist Jesse Helms because, he cowardly said: “Republicans wear my shoes, too.”

And then there was Woods, who, when asked if he supported the boycott of South Carolina by Blacks because, at the time, it refused to remove the Confederate flag, cowardly said, “No. I’m just a golfer.”

Those are two of the transcendent Black athletes of our time and they wimped out. James, the third athlete of Jordan’s and Woods’ worldwide statue, stands up.

“Any way I can help the president, that’s pretty cool,” James said Wednesday night.

How refreshing.

James’ spot will air on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV, during NBA games, among other outlets. It will also air during local sports programming in markets with a high concentration of uninsured people.

At 29, James has shown he’s above the fray, an athlete of courage who, if he were around in the 1960s, likely would have marched with Martin Luther King Jr. for civil rights or stood with Muhammad Ali against the Vietnam War. Many will argue that athletes are just athletes and they should have no voice in politics.

Hogwash.

What makes Jordan and Woods appear so weak is that their prominence or money would not be affected if they had become public advocates. If they read and are up on the issues, they could reach an audience otherwise not reachable. That’s what James sees in his commitment to the Affordable Care Act. That’s what he sees as his role as a worldwide figure.

It’s also clear that James is grounded in his roots. He’s moved on, advanced his life in a remarkable fashion, but in his soul remains a kid from Akron, Ohio, whose family had to struggle to survive. Other, less prominent athletes certainly are politically astute and forthright. But James’ star is bigger than them all, making his voice more powerful and his reach more encompassing.

James, with his Miami Heat teammates, was also outspoken in his support of the Trayvon Martin family during the uproar of the teen’s slaying and the acquittal of his shooter, George Zimmerman.

James has made it clear he supported Obama even before he became president. That the Heat ultra-star publicly shows his support speaks to something noble and brave in him that others on his level lack.

“The president greatly admires and respects LeBron, and we are excited that he is joining a number of other athletes in helping spread the word during these critical final weeks of open enrollment,” an administration official said.

“It’s almost like car insurance,” James said. “You want to put yourself in a position where—you hope you never get into an accident—but if you do, you want to be secure. And I think a lot of young adults and African-Americans as well are afraid because they are not even educated about it. And hopefully my voice, and hopefully the other people who’ve done it, can get them more knowledgeable about it.”

James gets it. And wherever your basketball allegiance lies, LeBron James should be elevated. He certainly has been in mine.

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