More Thoughts on Cleveland and LeBron James


Question: Paul, I saw your story on LeBron’s economic impact on the city of Cleveland. I thought you might be interested in seeing some other efforts that are aimed at keeping Lebron in town. Here is a link to a video of a flash mob dance that took place in Tower City last week. It included kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland and Akron. Enjoy!

Paul Solman: Too little too late, I’m afraid. First Art Modell moves the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in the stealth of night, a 1996 event so toxic to Clevelanders that the third thing you get when you Google “Art Modell” is a web page entitled “Modell Death Watch.” The second is a Wikipedia entry clearly written by enemies. The first, an article in from July 13: “Does LeBron Leaving Get Art Modell Off The Hook?”

Fourteen years after Modell, this.

Much has been written about LeBron’s rather remarkable televised decision (“The Decision”). See especially the Times’ Maureen Dowd and The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy.

This weekend, he was booed in New York – attending a WEDDING!

But a more interesting take on OUR angle — the economics of LeBron — comes from the e-mail below.

Allen G.
Phoenix, AZ
I enjoy your reporting and segments on the PBS NewsHour and find them extremely informative! On the June 24th show, there was a segment on the City of Cleveland, Ohio and the Lebron James economic factor. I agree that sports and athletes are important to cities and I hope Lebron James stays in Cleveland. However, the city is short-sighted on its economic development views.

With the impending Continental Airlines/United Airlines merger, the city could be impacted as much as LeBron James leaving the team. Cleveland is a hub city for Continental Airlines and the merger could impact that status. Jobs and economic development could be at stake that might rival keeping an athlete in town! Continental Airlines brings in as much as one athlete to the city and if the merger results in Cleveland becoming a “focus” city rather than a “hub” city, how many of Cleveland’s citizens are willing to pay for that?

Modell, LeBron AND Continental? An economically terrible trifecta. Or “cry-fecta,” perhaps. And honestly, folks, Cleveland is a lovely city. It did nothing to deserve this.

But allow me to end on a more personal note with ESPN’s remarkably energetic, astute and funny columnist Bill Simmons, writing the day before “The Decision”:

“I don’t think LeBron James has anyone in his life with enough juice to hurl his or her body in front of the concept of ‘I’m going to announce during a one-hour live show that I’m playing somewhere other than Cleveland.’ It’s the best and worst thing about him — he has remained fiercely loyal to his high school friends, but at the same time, he’s surrounded by people his own age who don’t stand up to him and don’t know any better.
Picking anyone other than Cleveland on this show would be the meanest thing any athlete has ever done to a city. But he might. Assuming he’s not malicious, and that he’s just a self-absorbed kid who apparently lost all perspective, that doesn’t make him much different than most child stars who became famous before they could legally drink — or, for that matter, Tiger Woods. That’s just the way this stuff works. Too much, too fast, too soon. You don’t lose your way all at once; just a little at a time. Then one day you look up and there’s a TMZ photo spread with 15 of your mistresses, or you’re agreeing to stab an entire city in the heart on a one-hour television show….”

And the last sentence: “What a week for LeBron’s brand. I just hope he remembers to wipe the blood off the knife after he pulls it from Cleveland’s back.”