3.30.2009

Crazy Commerce, Commerce Crazed



(Actual post follows the store stuff)

With a lull in the season, what better to do than revamp the FreeDarko store, repress some in-demand tees, and roll out some new prints? Yes, starting last night, you can visit the brand new FD Imperial Marketplace, whose clean and articulate presentation alone should inspire you to cut into your tax payment. Highlights are open editions prints of some Style Guides, at a lower price than the artist's edition ones (see Lamar Odom, above), and re-ups of THE STEPHEN JACKSON TEE YOU EMAIL ME ABOUT EVERY OTHER DAY and the Classic 2.0.



Right now we're taking pre-orders on those, but they should be available in 2-3 weeks. And this is just the first wave: Get ready for some totally original new shirts and more portrait prints in time for the playoffs. The shit you've never seen before. Now, in other news. . .

-Me with a point about GM's

-I can't tell if this quote from Ray Allen regarding Bron Bron's future is inspiring or deeply suspicious, like he's trying to undermine the kid's career so the Celts have a clear path as they fade. From CBS News:

"Mike paved the way for all of us to open up the endorsement door," said Celtics star Ray Allen, another Jordan Brand athlete. "But the one thing that Mike never was is political. I think in today's era, the NBA player has an even greater podium if he chooses to use it. And with Barack Obama being the first black president, it's a great forum. I think that would separate him from anybody who's done this. ... It's great to be a basketball player, but to transcend sports is a big responsibility. If he were able to pull that off -- if he wants to pull that off -- I think that would set him apart."

First, let's take Ray Ray at face value, since I like the world better that way. And I might be getting confused due to the ol' cut and paste, but—key to this point—LeBron isn't a Jordan Brand guy. He does have the leeway to push, even redefine with an athlete brand means if he feels like it. I think most of us would agree that politics is the easiest way to alienate a bunch of potential consumers. But, while I know Allen is focused on what Obama the FBP can do in office, let's not forget what a marketing sensation Barack was before the election, when through no fault of his own, he created the Nike of politics. Sure, the stances were at times vague, and style may mattered more (or been as much of a statement as) substance. Though there's no denying the fact that Obama awakened something citizen-like in people while offending or boring as few as possible in an election year. If LeBron were to at least give the appearance of political engagement, and of therefore having a constituency at his fingers, that would make him a leader. And then, "brand" hardly seems a sufficient description.

I'm not saying this would be an altogether cynical maneuver. Nor do I think James could realistically call out China at a press conference. But he's got the world's attention, and a team around him that could do some risk-management assessment on what issues he could and could not get near. Maybe this would just turn him into a world-class philathrophist. The Bill Gates of sports. On the other hand, now that (go ahead, bold and attack this statement) so many formerly "black" issues are now publicly acknowledged to be everyone's problems, it's possible to take a stand on public schools, health care, unemployment or housing issues without seeming like a dangerous radical. Sure, Hollywood talks all the time. And yet we've learned to tune them out, question what little authority they have, and wonder why they bother. LeBron James could leverage an entirely new kind of pop culture politics. It would be a risk, but, to follow Ray Allen's reasoning, it would be one hell of a way to get bigger than Jordan and carve out an unmistakable legacy.



All this assumes that LeBron gives a damn. Maybe all he needs is the right mentor to get in his ear. Or to find that one issue where he can afford to take corporate interests. Fuck a petition; could LeBron James have a trade policy, at least when it came to sneakers? Imagine if he got a Nike plant put in Akron. Or, going beyond the usual thirty-second spot, went before Congress and urged them to not leave behind international aid programs. It sounds ridiculous, but then again, so did the idea of everyone wearing Obama all-over print hoodies after Iowa. If Obama was the ultimate feat of politics crossing over into pop culture, why couldn't LeBron—who is a pop culture brand, not just a symbol of athletic excellence—try the inverse?

Of course, none of this happens if LBJ doesn't get invited to the White House a few times, minus a ton of publicity, and with appearance alone laying the gorundwork for both independence and continuity.

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29 Comments:

At 3/30/2009 4:51 PM, Blogger Joe Applegate said...

What if Lebron is in fact apolitical? I kind of feel he is. The most poilitical thing I ever heard him say was that he wants to be the first billionaire athlete- and I took that to be his party platform.

I seem to remember some member of the Cavs a couple year's back (can't remember who- anybody?) gathering a petition censoring China and companies with production in China for their involvement Darfur. All the Cavs signed it except for Lebron because of his Nike contract, and Damon Jones who somehow had a shoe contract in China.

Anyways, the point is the paradigm might be true, but maybe the personnel will be different?

Or maybe Lebron will have a "What's going on"-esque metamorphosis?

 
At 3/30/2009 5:01 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

A good friend of mine has sworn for years that Usher would have one of those one day.

 
At 3/30/2009 5:14 PM, Blogger Craig said...

I think that the most important part is the people with whom Lebron surrounds himself, you touch on this briefly. I think that the people that have his ear have such a large influence on his identity. Those are the people that would prod him into sticking his neck out for a cause. He always has the option it is only if he feels pressured to use it.

 
At 3/30/2009 5:41 PM, Blogger BPH said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 3/30/2009 5:43 PM, Blogger BPH said...

Joe,

It was Ira Newble. He later got released, signed by the Lakers, and fairly soon after Kobe did a spot for Darfur. Bizarre.

 
At 3/30/2009 5:46 PM, Blogger Brendan K said...

I doubt that it's a coincidence that guys like Adonal Foyle and Etan Thomas are NBA players that went to college and graduated. In Bron's case, it's far from insulting to remember that the dude's from Ohio and possesses a a high school education.

Maybe a better question is why, say, Brandon Roy doesn't seem interested in sharing (having?) political opinions. Maybe the prerequisite to your post was superstardom- Tim Duncan then? (Answer: Probably because he's boring.)

 
At 3/30/2009 5:49 PM, Blogger Alexander J said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRAg7ixYaeE

Ry Cooder and Lebron James make a great pair; that is to say I was listening to this song while reading the post.

How does this all relate to the untimely death of Graham Chapman not 20 years ago?

What about an ex-pro left-leaning lobbyist, does that exist?

Spencer Hawes keeps himself relevant with these articles.

 
At 3/30/2009 5:55 PM, Blogger Brendan K said...

Spencer Hawes names his sneakers "Sarah" and "Palin." And I have it on good authority he writes fanfic.

 
At 3/30/2009 6:23 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

@Brendan K: Thomas Edison was born in Ohio and never went to college. What's your point?

 
At 3/30/2009 6:49 PM, Blogger Brendan K said...

BR-

That the percentage of the Rust Belt populace who went to college in the 1870s was a fraction of what it is today? That was my point.

I'm an educator at the University level, and I know a lot of kids who choose to leave/not to go to college in the first place. It's okay to say that a 24 year old who might not have had a lot of exposure to the goings-on of the world might likewise not be inclined to care that much about policy. I'm not saying he's stupid (though he's no Edison)- that's just a plausible explanation as to why LeBron James might have other interests.

 
At 3/30/2009 8:14 PM, Blogger roland major said...

Doesn't it seem like Jim Brown would have had Lebron's ear a couple of times by now. He seems to pop up in Cleveland pretty often still..

 
At 3/30/2009 9:04 PM, Blogger Joe Applegate said...

Myself, I've been waiting forever for R-Kelly to pop the collar on his leather trench, get some snowflakes in his hair, and tell it like it is. Maybe some people just don't have in'em what we want them to have in'em.

 
At 3/30/2009 9:04 PM, Blogger roland major said...

also, what's more indicative of FD's permeation into main stream NBA culture- Stephen Jackson posing with Stephen Jackson for Mayor or Krolik dropping a reference to a David Foster Wallace interview with Salon.com on the Daily Dime?

 
At 3/30/2009 9:05 PM, Blogger Joe Applegate said...

Oh, and thanks for the confirmation BPH. I knew I wasn't making that up.

 
At 3/30/2009 10:06 PM, Blogger Dave Fonseca said...

Lebron getting political just for the sake of it would be bad for everyone.

I understand his power as a mouthpiece, but I would just see that as exploitative.

Honestly, why doesn't Ray Ray get political. He stumped for Obama to his teammates, but what has he really added to the discourse?

I feel like Artest, Odom and Wallace have a greater social impact just in what they are capable of making of feel; the pathways they open in our minds.

 
At 3/31/2009 12:11 AM, Blogger Laphonso said...

Didn't LeBron co-host a concert with Jay Z for Obama at the Q? Not exactly a radical move, but a step toward politicization nonetheless.

 
At 3/31/2009 10:10 AM, Blogger Silas said...

If LeBron doesn't give a damn, that's fine - but it can only be good for an athelete to say "I do care about things other than basketball, because it's important to care about things other than basketball." I get really sick of hearing the argument that entertainers somehow aren't entitled to their feelings and opinions, or that having a platform somehow obligates a person to avoid controversy.
I also think that Ray was on the money about the Jordan brand; intentionally or not, Jordan reinforced the message that an athelete shouldn't risk offending anyone. LeBron doesn't have to lay out a plan for multi-lateral human rights initiatives, but if he cares, he should say so. Loudly. You don't have to be Thomas Edison to care.

 
At 3/31/2009 11:01 AM, Blogger Silas said...

Also, I don't see how Ray could hope to derail LeBron's career by encouraging him to be more political. Becoming a controversial outsider could only enhace LeBron's game. It’s fun to imagine how he would play once freed from the expectation of being likeable and universally non-threatening - an expectation he does seem to put some value on.

 
At 3/31/2009 11:42 AM, Blogger W2 said...

If LeBron became polical or more political or something like political, maybe guys like Ray could follow suit without fear of a backlash. Ray is a very calculating person (future politician I would bet) and knows a winner when he sees one.

The idea that these comments are intended to influence the outcome of the playoffs seems a bit silly.
If only it were that easy to rattle King Jame's cage.

 
At 3/31/2009 12:12 PM, Blogger avery said...

"could LeBron James have a trade policy, at least when it came to sneakers?"

That is the most interesting idea, beyond any Obama support or Darfur as an immediate first step. Having a trade policy on James merchandise and NIKE shoes could be huge, forcing NIKE to finally put all the No Logo/sweatshop bull to rest in a way that Kathie Lee could never have done.

 
At 3/31/2009 1:52 PM, Blogger rawdawgexpress said...

Ray Allen is really invoking Muhammed Ali.

I've been living in Cleveland since 2001 and alot of us have not-so-secretly been hoping Lebron would take the path of Ali versus the path of Jordan since he came into the NBA.

Lebron may consider that if he became political (defined as "seeker of justice") he would inhabit the deepest part of our heart- not the part of the heart lying at the surface, near the pocketbook, where Jordan inhabits.

But Lebron lacks segregation and Vietnam as issues, and I wonder how having political views can help him transcend Jordan in this day/age.

An interesting question: what political action can Lebron to began his quest? It seems like poverty is an obvious one- we live in Cleveland, after all.

Weirdly- Lebron reminds me of Bill Cosby in some of his comedy/mannerisms. I wonder if is his "political" views may also be similar?

 
At 3/31/2009 5:32 PM, Blogger brian said...

what political action? how about prison reform starting with a change in drug laws. when only like 15 % of drug users are black while 75 % or people in prison for drugs are black, things are at least as fucked up as segregation.

 
At 4/01/2009 12:12 PM, OpenID Jiggy Saw said...

Lebron didn't even know what Sports Illustrated was before he appeared on the cover. He might not be the most well read, politically deep guy. He's great at basketball. Let him do him.

 
At 4/01/2009 12:55 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/01/2009 1:01 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

This need to stay neutral by basketball players, for fear of alienating potential customers is ridiculous. People who wear Jordans or LBJs,or white parents who buy them for their kids are going to buy them anyway. If LeBron's political views mattered to the point where it would stop a customer from buying his shoe, that person probably wasn't buying it in the 1st place. Maybe Tiger is on that position, not Jordan, nor LBJ.

I think the Jordans and Carmelos of the world stay neutral and say, "Republicans buy sneakers too..," because they have no opinion to start with. So, it's an easy cop out.

That shouldn't be the point, though. The FPB is in office, yet we still feel the need for athletes to have political views AND to express them? They play sports. Let them. As an African-American, I'm tired of desire to have our athletes be political role models. Our train of thought needs to change, not the athletes. Do I want young Black America taking cues from a 24 yo basketball prodigy who's been pampered since he was a pre-teen? Whose sole focus since he was probably thirteen was to take his rightful place among NBA greats? Hell no.

Let them learn the crab dribble from LBJ. On second thought. No. That's a travel.

 
At 4/01/2009 4:21 PM, Blogger Edward Nadimi said...

interesting thoughts, and great analysis; one thing is missing from your coverage, however.

given that america voiced its opinion on november 4, 2008, and chose to elect a man who they felt was not only telling them the truth, but was EDUCATED enough to carry OUT that truth, i find it hard to believe that a similar portion of the country would be willing to listen to/agree with lebron james.

you mentioned he is not just a model of athletic excellence, but also one of THE most prominent popular culture icons. he is not, on the other hand, by any stretch of the imagination, someone whose intelligence has ever been measured.

don't forget that he did not attend a single day of college.

sure, the branding and marketing around him is genius, but think about how many hundreds (thousands??) of people have worked to develop this image of lebron.

i don't think educated america would be fooled into siding with lebron on issues that matter, unless they already felt that way already. in america, we love to take the other side of an argument - just look at our two-party system.

i've gone a bit long, but essentially what i'm trying to say is that i don't think (or at least, I HOPE NOT) that america would instantly agree with lebron james just because of his popular culture status. his knowledge of serious topics has never been assessed, questioned, analyzed, or documented.

 
At 4/01/2009 9:38 PM, Blogger Jacob said...

So a 24 year old black man with a high school education is poised to become a billionaire. His empire is now in the hands of his equally young and black friends from way back. And you say that the man is not political? The similarity in LBJ's and Obama's games is that they are both engaged in expanding what we think of as possible. Obama didn't get there with hard stances and truth to power podium thumping. Why deny Lebron's political engagement for the same reason? The man has consciously put his hands on some enormously powerful cultural and economic levers. If that's not political, then you're definition is too small.

 
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At 3/22/2013 6:44 PM, Blogger Jim Philips said...

You did a great job with those prints. I really like the palette that you used there. I bet that it would sell quite well between payperhead community.

 

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