“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is a weekly column from the lead columnist of WARR
Education is one of the most expensive and high-stakes industries within America and in recent times a lot of wealthy celebrities have put their money where their mouths are in performing actions to create opportunities for young black youth to be educated better than what governments both local and federal have allowed for them.
Music impresario and businessman Sean “Diddy” Combs founded a charter school in his native Harlem, ESPN’s Jalen Rose founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit and a long-held source of pride for NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson has been his Carver Academy in San Antonio.
Much in the way he’s done as a player, as a humanitarian LeBron James has not only followed in the footsteps of giants, but he’s made his own giant imprint on privately funded education by fulfilling a promise to his home town of Akron, OH.
The LeBron James Foundation and Akron Public Schools worked together to create the I Promise school, which will act as a public school, targeting at-risk youth in Akron. An almost jaw-dropping list of perks for I Promise students and their families include free tuition, free uniforms, free bicycle and helmet, free transportation within two miles, free breakfast, lunch and snacks, food pantry for families, GED’s and job placement services for parents and guaranteed tuition to the University of Akron for every student who graduates.
James continues to make a difference within his community, but one thing stood out to me in the coverage of the I Promise opening that not many people are talking about: the possibility that James could run for President one day.
With James’ lasting reputation of speaking out on societal ills and controversies and his current establishment of public institutions to back up his opinions and ideals, we have a public figure who can offer a greater resume of public service than even the current POTUS offered upon the beginning of his campaign in 2015.
The reasonable distaste many in our country have for Donald Trump has caused many to ask for an equally famous and charismatic figure to represent the Democratic Party in the next election or soon after. Oprah says she’s not interested, The Rock is iffy, could LeBron take his talents to Washington one day?
“I don’t know,” James said. “I may…if [The Democratic Party] have no one, I believe there may be someone… I may [run]. Let’s see.”
The idea of King James dominating the political field can seem far-fetched to some people, including me, but it does not mean he is not fit to be in a leadership role within our country. James has diversified himself in so many levels as a businessman, athlete and family man that his on and off the court successes can pave the way for political success. As an educator, he clearly knows the important of education by creating I Promise public school.
As a businessman, James knows economics, the importance of it and has surrounded himself with successful like-minded businessmen that help take his investments to another level to help cities economically. According to sports economic research by AEI’s Daniel Shoeg and Stan Veuger, James’s presence (whether in Cleveland or Miami) increased the number of restaurants and bars within one mile of his team’s arena by 13 percent, they found, and increased employment at those establishments by 23.5 percent.
“We find that Mr. James has a statistically and economically significant positive effect on both the number of restaurants and other eating and drinking establishments near the stadium where he is based, and on aggregate employment at those establishments,” says AEI.
As an activist, James understands social justice and he’s combined his activism with his growing stake in entertainment production to great effect. In creating the UNINTERRUPTED online network, James has showcased programming that’s allowed athletes to be #MoreThanAnAthlete and speak on social justice issues, he also often times calls out the injustices of young black men being killed due to police brutality and symbolically and directly levied support for Colin Kaepernick’s protest while leaving no words minced regarding his dislike of President Trump and those who would use sports to promote racism and divide the country.
“No matter how big you can become, no matter how successful you are, no matter what you do in the community or in your profession, being African American in America is tough, and they always going to let you know that you are the ‘n-word’ — no matter who you are,” James told CNN this week.
“When you look at the greatest leaders of our time, Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, after all the adversity they went through, they never let it down them. They used it as motivation to be more powerful — and they are the reason we are here today.”
We also have to mention there are a handful of athletes that have successful professional careers and are making a difference in their communities through politics. There’s a long history of athletes who’ve run for political office to varying success but recent years have saw some breakthroughs, such as Kevin Johnson becoming Sacramento’s first African-American mayor.
To the likes of Laura Ingraham, remember that time you called out LeBron for his controversial comments of President Trump and told him to stay out of politics, telling himstick to basketball and “shut up and dibble”?
Well, James has been no less than a product of politics all his life, and his well-documented life has done everything to inform him and make him an outstanding representative for the working class, the black community and his home of Northeast Ohio even as he becomes more of a singular figure in American life.
It can be argued that with this school opening James has done more for the city of Akron than the faulty Dept. of Education under Betsy Devos and the Trump administration has ever done for the country.
Do not be surprised if the established swing state of Ohio one day has a James as its most popular representative and not just on the basketball court.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio