Nike Under Fire for 'Beyond Insulting' LeBron James Tribute: 'You Owe the Christian Community an Apology'


Multibillion-dollar shoe conglomerate Nike has found itself in some hot water as its viral LeBron James tribute video has been accused of appropriating Christianity.

On Tuesday, James and his Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 133-130. But en route to that loss, James eclipsed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Regardless of where you fall on the Michael Jordan versus LeBron James debate, even James’ harshest critics would have to admit that that’s an impressive feat.

Obviously, such an accomplishment required celebration, and there was celebrating aplenty when the NBA stopped play for 10 minutes to congratulate James. The celebration featured a little bit of everything, from fans booing Joe Biden to James’ expletive-laden speech.

Nike, obviously wanting to get in on the festivities, produced a tribute video that went viral all across social media (it sits at 2.7 million views on Twitter as of this writing) — but it also raised a few eyebrows in the process.

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First, the video, which you can check out for yourself below:

“20 years later, we are who we’ve always been – Witnesses to [James’] never-ending greatness,” Nike said in the caption to the video on Twitter.

Should Nike apologize for this ad?

As for the video itself, that’s where the consternation came in. Many felt it was an affront to Christianity, as it repurposes what sounds like a sermon about Jesus — complete with gospel music in the background and responses from the audience — to be about James. Indeed, it’s hard to dispute the strong Christian undertones.

“Do we have anyone in the building today willing to testify?” the video begins, while clips are seen from early in James’ career. “He’s done so much already. We’ve witnessed him do so much already. We’ve heard about the things this man can do already.”

The use of the term “witness” is a reference to one of Nike’s older James marketing campaigns, in which it claimed “We Are All Witnesses” to James’ greatness. The entire video actually pays homage to that “Witness” campaign.

“We just can’t help but celebrate him. Haters go ahead and recognize that when you speak on his name, you’re gonna go higher, higher, higher,” the preacher continues as he begins to sing. “I can’t help but to honor him. And I can’t help but to lift him up.

“I got one last question for you. Can I get a witness? Can I get a witness?”

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The video drew a swift rebuke from people who felt that Nike was hewing a little too close to equating James with Jesus.

“You owe the Christian community an apology. This is beyond insulting,” one Twitter user said.

Another Twitter user just came out and asked if Nike was, in fact, comparing James to Jesus.

Those criticisms were just as rampant on Instagram, with comments accusing Nike of mocking the Lord.

“The audio is about the true King, Jesus Christ. [James] is cool but be careful Nike,” one user said.

“Please do not use this audio to compare lebron to God, nothing against lebron but there is no comparing the level of wonder and praise God deserves,” said another.

For those curious, it does not appear that Nike used an actual sermon for this ad. “Social justice activist” and voice actor Alonzo Chadwick claimed that he recorded the faux-sermon specifically for the Nike campaign.

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.
Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.
Class of 2010 University of Arizona. BEAR DOWN.
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