Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and there isn’t a bigger crown in professional sports than the one nestled on LeBron James’ head.
For the past week, the Akron, Ohio, native has caught all types of hell for demanding that Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon be held accountable for his decision to dismiss de-escalation tactics or alternative methods entirely in favor of shooting and killing 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant on April 20.
James has been called out by everyone from senators who abandon their constituents in the middle of a massive power outage to bar owners who would rather go out of business than show NBA games in their establishments. It’s almost like these people were full of shit when all of this white guilt and “goodwill” was circulating last summer after George Floyd was murdered by police, too. But since they were all kind enough to post black squares on Instagram, let me stop being so ungrateful.
The latest detractor to step to the plate is Deon Joseph, a Black police officer who’s spent more than two decades serving the Los Angeles community. To the surprise of absolutely no one, he’s not particularly fond of James’ demand for police accountability either. How do I know this? Because he wrote an open letter to the four-time NBA champ on Facebook requesting that the two meet up to discuss the intersection of race and policing in this white supremacist, capitalistic society we all call home.
To add context, Joseph isn’t exactly an obscure figure. He’s spent a significant portion of his career endearing himself to LA’s Skid Row community—even earning the nickname “The Angel of Skid Row”—and has worked extensively with the unhoused, distributing hygiene kits, addressing mental illness, and patrolling the neighborhood. He’s made frequent appearances on podcasts, pops up in documentaries, and spreads the gospel of law enforcement on television. He delivers TED Talks and even wrote a book in 2019 about his life and career as a sentinel of both compassion and justice.
Basically, he’s a prime candidate for having his views twisted and contorted by right-wingers and ashy assholes who would love nothing more than to slap a Black face onto their own caustic rhetoric—which brings us to this letter.
People like Tucker Carlson might try to tell you otherwise, but Joseph makes it abundantly clear from the jump that he isn’t out to shit on LeBron.
“I am not going to come at you from a place of hatred,” he writes. “There will be no name-calling. I was raised to see the whole of a human being. Not to hyper-focus on their flaws or make said flaws the whole of who they are. I’m an honest man.”
Now while he doesn’t outright shit on LeBron, the “hyper-focus on their flaws or make said flaws the whole of who they are” part is a clear jab at what he believes LeBron is doing when it comes to calling out police officers. Remember this part because it will come full circle later on.
He then goes on to praise LeBron before pointing out the commonalities they share. This is a common tactic we’ve all used at some point in our lives right before we air out our grievances.
“What you do for children, and other acts of charity shows a huge heart,” he writes. “You show to be a family man, and that’s to be respected. You play for the team my family has cheered for since the 1960s, then myself since 1979.”
He continues, “But... Your current stance on policing is so off base and extreme. Your tweet that targeted a police officer in Ohio who saved a young woman’s life was irresponsible and disturbing. It showed a complete lack of understanding of the challenge of our job in the heat of a moment. You basically put a target on the back of a human being who had to make a split-second decision to save a life from a deadly attack.”
It was at this exact moment that I stopped rooting for everybody Black.
Didn’t this man just say that he doesn’t “make said flaws” the whole of who somebody is? Isn’t accusing LeBron of targeting police the very definition of “off base and extreme”? And to say that LeBron “put a target on the back of a human being” when Nicholas Reardon literally put a target (and some complimentary bullet holes) on the back of Ma’Khia Bryant is some wild, cop-ass shit to say.
The assumption that Reardon killed Bryant in order to save the person she was about to stab is incredibly presumptuous as well. Because last I checked, I’m not busting my gun at somebody whose life I’m trying to save. Considering that person is directly in the line of fire, I’d attempt some other method to subdue Bryant if my goal was truly to spare that other person’s life.
Joseph then goes on to reiterate that he has “no hatred” for LeBron and requests that they sit down and chop it up.
“I don’t know if this will ever reach you, but my hope is that one day I can sit down with you and talk,” he writes. “As a man of faith, I can have no hatred toward you. But I do feel I can help you understand the reality of the profession of policing, and that there is another side you need to hear. You are tired of Black folks dying? So am I. You hate racism and police brutality? So do I. But you cannot paint 800,000 men and women who are of all races, faiths, sexual orientations and are also mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, preachers, coaches, community members and just human with such a broad and destructive brush.”
So Joseph doesn’t want to be stereotyped as part of the problem, but fails to explain how he’s part of the solution. My nigga, you’re a whole-ass LAPD officer. You know exactly who the bad apples in your department are. So if you aren’t one yourself, what are you doing to get rid of them? If Joseph is truly “tired of Black folks dying” or “racism and police brutality,” what does talking to LeBron resolve?
It sounds like he just wants LeBron to shut the fuck up and not hold people like Joseph accountable for checking his co-workers. So if that’s what this conversation is supposed to address, if I’m LeBron, I’m not even entertaining this shit until Joseph is willing to be more transparent about the failures, overt racism, and lack of accountability within police departments throughout the country.
Besides, he has much more important things to do...like holding people like accountable Joseph for not doing their jobs.