Following your confirmation bias at all times seldom ends well, particularly if that confirmation bias is that police are uniformly monstrous and are guilty in any officer-involved shooting before the details are out.
And yes, this holds true even if you’re one of the planet’s most famous individuals. In the wake of the shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant last week in Columbus, Ohio, NBA star LeBron James proved this quite aptly. Now, a Los Angeles Police Department officer is going viral with his open letter to James, including an offer meet and talk about policing issues.
So, for starters: In the immediate aftermath of the Bryant shooting, in which the 16-year-old girl was killed by a policeman right as bodycam video shows she was attempting to stab another female pinned against a car, James tweeted out a picture of the officer involved. Not to thank him, mind you, but to threaten him.
“YOU’RE NEXT, #ACCOUNTABILITY,” read the tweet, which was up briefly last Tuesday before swift deletion.
LeBron James deleted this tweet but only after it had 39,000+ likes. The man in the photo saved a young black girl from another young black girl who was going to stab her in the neck. He did his job. Now @KingJames put a target on his back. Is the @NBA okay with this??? pic.twitter.com/QegzyySnsI
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) April 21, 2021
James’ response wouldn’t, for anyone else, be considered remotely acceptable.
Even after he deleted the original tweet, he posted follow-ups “explaining” his position.
“ANGER does any of us any good and that includes myself! Gathering all the facts and educating does though!” he wrote in one. “My anger still is here for what happened that lil girl. My sympathy for her family and may justice prevail!”
Anger doesn’t do any of us any good, but he’s still angry for “that lil girl.” Work through that one. The mainstream media, naturally, didn’t.
It’s something that plenty of people will remember, however, especially since LeBron is starring in “Space Jam 2,” coming out this summer. My guess is a goodly portion of the parent pool might not let junior and missy go to see that one — which, given its Brobdingnagian budget, might present issues.
Beyond that, however, there are still questions James has to answer. LAPD Officer Deon Joseph would like to sit down with him to do just that.
According to his webpage, Joseph “has worked for the LAPD for over 25 years, twenty-three of those years in downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row community. From patrolling the streets or providing a shoulder for the community to lean on to meeting with public figures and advocating for change, Deon is driven to create an environment conducive to change for the homeless and those trying to reclaim their lives from the grip of addiction.”
In a viral letter posted on Facebook over the weekend and addressed to James, Joseph said he would like to “sit down with you and talk” so James could “understand the reality of the profession of policing.”
“Unlike some who have dug their heals in the belief that police are inherently evil, I think if you yourself actually sat down and had a real honest and open conversation with a cop, there is a strong chance you may discover we are not the monsters you have come to believe we are, who deserve the hate and [disdain] you have,” wrote Joseph, who is black.
“And even if you come away feeling the same way, I could respect it, because at least you gave the other side your ear instead of only hearing one narrative. “
Joseph, who said he wasn’t approaching the matter “from a place of hatred,” praised LeBron’s philanthropy and the relationship the Los Angeles Lakers star has with his family.
“You play for the team my family has cheered for since the 1960s, then myself since 1979. But… Your current stance on policing is so off base and extreme,” Joseph wrote in his Facebook post. “Your tweet that targeted a police officer in Ohio who saved a young woman’s life was irresponsible and disturbing. It showed a complete lack of understanding of the challenge of our job in the heat of a moment. You basically put a target on the back of a human being who had to make a split second decision to save a life from a deadly attack.
Even though the officer in the case, Nicholas Reardon, likely never wanted to make that kind of decision with someone so young, Joseph wrote, LeBron didn’t really say he was sorry.
“Instead of apologizing, you deflected. You said you took your tweet down because you did not want it to be used for hate, when the tweet itself was the embodiment of hatred, rooted in a lack of understanding of the danger of the situation,” he wrote.
“I don’t know if this will ever reach you, but my hope is that one day I can sit down with you and talk. As a man of faith, I can have no hatred toward you,” he continued.
“But I do feel I can help you understand the reality of the profession of policing, and that there is another side you need to hear. You are tired of Black folks dying? So am I. You hate racism and police brutality? So do I. But you cannot paint 800,000 men and women who are of all races, faiths, sexual orientations and are also mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, preachers, coaches, community members and just human with such a broad and destructive brush.”
I am not going to come at you from a place of hatred. There will be no name calling. I was raised to see…
Joseph knows it’s “a long shot,” but he promised “[n]o cameras. No fanfare. Just two men who are talking.”
“But this division and hatred must stop. It’s clear based on rising crime in marginalized communities that cops and the community need to build bridges to save lives on all sides. That cannot be done through the demonization of any group of people.”
If James wants to sit down with Joseph, he knows where to find him. Keep in mind this also isn’t unprecedented. Say what you will about Colin Kaepernick — and I do, quite frequently — his decision to kneel as opposed to sitting for the national anthem came after he met with a Green Beret who was critical of the quarterback’s protest. Kaepernick didn’t change his mind, obviously — but he at least met with the Green Beret.
I get the feeling that’s not going to happen. James is invested in hashtag activism, in hot takes and talk about accountability, all without taking any himself.
If he proves me wrong, there would be no more pleasant surprise. Consider my breath thoroughly un-bated, however.
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