By Contributor on July 17, 2014

The decision by NBA player LeBron James to leave the Miami Heat and return home to the Cleveland Cavaliers speaks well about him and holds lessons for us all.

Cleveland is not the type of place that people usually return to once they’ve hit the big time.

In 2010, Cleveland made the top of the Forbes list of most miserable cities, with high unemployment and a loss in manufacturing jobs, a massive foreclosure problem, abandoned homes, poorly performing schools, crime and pollution.

“My relationship with northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” James told Sports Illustrated. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”

He acknowledged the problems that Cleveland and his hometown of Akron, Ohio, have faced. “Our community,” he said, “has struggled so much,” and “it needs all the talent it can get.”

In so doing, James cast a spotlight on problems that many of our cities face due to deindustrialization, neglect and cruel policies.

For example, Detroit fell victim to years of population decline, an exodus to the suburbs and eroding tax base, culminating in an undemocratic state takeover of the predominantly African-American city by Gov. Rick Snyder. Recently, the city government moved to shut water service to thousands of people who could not afford to pay, prompting some Detroit residents to seek help from the United Nations.

Chicago continues to be plagued by gun violence, with at least nine dead and 60 injured over the July Fourth weekend, and three dead and 28 wounded the following weekend. Chicago also closed 50 of its public schools last year, an unprecedented blow to the predominantly African-American and Latino children who depend on them.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia has fallen prey to Tom Corbett, the tea party governor of Pennsylvania who has made drastic cuts to public education while building new prisons and giving large tax breaks to corporations.

By coming back to Cleveland, LeBron James can show the country that there is a more compassionate way to handle our urban problems. In the last few years, he has shown that he is not afraid to speak out on political issues. He denounced the death of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin, and he condemned the racist statements made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Some star athletes such as Michael Jordan have embraced product endorsements but have eschewed community involvement and taking a stand, while other players have attracted attention for their personal exploits and foolish financial decisions.

LeBron James harkens back to the days of the socially conscious athletes, before the multimillion-dollar contracts. And he is setting the standard for the role of the athlete today.

“You know, God gave me a gift to do other things besides play the game of basketball,” he said.

He has his priorities straight. So should we.

David A. Love is a freelance writer and human rights advocate based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

Copyright David A. Love

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Comments

This is one of the most uplifting articles that I have read in along time. This man is a role model for all of us.
My hat is off to and my prayers are with Mr.James,his family,the good hard working people of Cleveland and the city of Cleveland,Ohio.Until recently I didn't know what a good and decent human being Mr.James is!!He would still be a good and decent human being if he decided to remain in Miami with his family.Simply put,it is eviden Mr.James has it going on in a big way!!He is a super star athlete who is so much more than just a championship basketball player with two championship rings!!He is a mature young man with a championship heart!!All the young,over paid professional athletes of the world should emulate him and those very much like him,who not only donate a great deal of dough but also their time and energy making the world a better place!! God bless Mr.James and all those who can make a difference, and choose to do so!!!

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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