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Calling Foul on Lebron James & Sports Media Shills

If people cared about animal welfare as much as they care about their favorite sports teams and celebrities, then everyone would be Vegan. Although I mostly support basketball star Lebron James’s comments that Boston sports fans are “racist as f*ck” (not all Boston sports fans are racist), Lebron James needs to look in the mirror and address his own failings as well. Lebron James is the first active athlete to amass a fortune that exceeds $1 billion (Yep, billion with a “b”). Lebron James has increased both his celebrity, and his personal wealth by hundreds of millions of dollar$ by shamelessly endorsing disease causing, animal harming, and planet destroying junk foods for years (to not only the young, but people of all ages as well). He has been an unabashed pitchman for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Blaze Pizza, PepsiCo, Sprite, Powerade, and Vitaminwater, and nobody has blinked an eye. Millions of children want to be like Lebron James (and other celebrities), and as a result, follow his every word and action. Is it therefore any coincidence that obesity & diabetes rates for children are at record highs in the United States? Study after study shows that childhood obesity significantly increases the risk of early all-cause and cause specific mortality (premature death). Since the number one cause of disease in the US is the Standard American Diet (SAD), celebrity athletes like Lebron James are clearly a big part of the problem. So too are the phony-baloney corporate media types who choose to exploit or ignore this elephant in the room. Shame on these celebrity athletes and media personalities who are full of it, and shame on the rest of us for not calling them out.

And just who exactly needs to be called out? It is not just the pampered athletes and sports commentators, but the sports mass media as well. Have you ever tried watching an NFL game on a Sunday afternoon? Each broadcast is crammed with ads promoting all kinds of junk food, pharmaceutical drugs, and of course, the US military. It is hard to watch, but it is also, big, big business. Making people sick, managing disease, and of course, never ending wars, mean enormous profits for the wealthy few. In 2011, the US military reportedly spent nearly $700 million in advertising (a number that is no doubt even higher today), while Big Pharma spent close to $7 billion in 2020. And what about the junk food restaurant chains? According to the University of Connecticut, fast food companies spent $5 billion in advertising in 2019, while disproportionately targeting Black and Latino youth (don’t forget too that the meat, dairy and egg industries receive nearly $40 billion in subsidies from the US government each year). Although these industries are at the root of so many of our problems, it is also the individual media personalities who acquire massive personal fortunes while doing their bidding, who need to be held accountable too.

“Those who are advantaged by the status quo are continually at work to make us understand that the way things are is the way things should be. And thus, the ways in which we understand the world are very much connected to the ways in which we interact with the world.” – Noam Chomsky

In the United States, the average well known sports commentator is paid between $5-20 million per year. Many of the personalities work for ESPN (a popular cable sports channel valued at over $50 billion), or one of the other corporate/state media channels (CBS, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, FOX, TNT, TBS, etc.). We shouldn’t expect any accountability from these networks as they are the same media outlets who have demonstrated for decades that their only loyalties are to the corporations & their advertisers, and not the truth (Click here to learn more about the corporate media’s long history of being cheerleaders for war). But what about the individual sports commentators? Although some of the personalities are likable, it is hard to imagine any one of them ever biting the hand that over-feeds them, and speaking out publicly against Big Pharma, Big Ag, junk food manufacturers/restaurants, or the US military (it would likely be career suicide, and the potential loss of millions of dollars). However, despite a grim chance for success, we should still try to appeal to the better angels of their nature, and remind them that they could be remembered for fighting the good fight, and being on the right side of history.  

One of the most engaging commentators in sports mass media is a guy named Bill Simmons. In my opinion, he is excellent when it comes to “sports talk” and probably the best at what he does. He formerly worked for both HBO (which is owned by another multi-billion dollar company WarnerMedia), and the aforementioned ESPN. He created a pop culture podcast platform called The Ringer (with an emphasis on sports), which he later sold to Spotify for $200 million. Unfortunately, when it comes to money, and being on the right side of history, Bill Simmons is full of it too. He has no shame when it comes to the advertisers on his channels as commercials for McDonald’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings can regularly be heard on his podcasts, as well as a sponsorship from Pizza Hut! A little over a year ago, Bill Simmons was conducting an interview about another sportscaster named Terez Paylor who died unexpectedly at the age of 37, of a suspected heart attack. As the conversation ended and there was a dramatic moment of silence, the podcast broke to a commercial from who else, but McDonald’s restaurants! Can you imagine? I actually knew of Mr. Paylor, and thought that he was one of the best in the sports announcing business as well (he was warm, authentic, and co-hosted a Yahoo Sports football podcast). I did a little research and could only confirm a suspected heart attack as the cause of death, but I did learn that Mr. Paylor appeared to be burdened with obesity as well. As a result of knowing what we know about the Standard American Diet (SAD), and the power of plant-based nutrition, I reached out to the Bill Simmons team, as the hypocrisy and obvious problems with The Ringer’s (Bill Simmons) advertisers and sponsors couldn’t have been more clear (consuming junk food from fast food restaurants causes disease and premature death, as well as enormous harm to animals, and our only planet). I was respectful and even complimentary, but nobody ever responded. They don’t care, and like countless others in the sports mass media landscape (and most of the celebrity athletes themselves), they probably never will. I have since learned that Bill Simmons owns at least four multi-million dollar homes, including a $16 million mansion in Los Angeles, as well as a $10 million “cottage” in Malibu. In the words of the great Mel Brooks, “It is good to be the King”, or rather, it is good to be in bed with the very industries & advertisers that are causing so much suffering, death, and damage in the world. 

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.” – Howard Zinn

So, where do we go from here? And how is the concept of a “billionaire” even acceptable in the United States, the wealthiest country in the world, when 1 in 4 families are food insecure, 40-90 million Americans are either underinsured or have no health insurance, and nearly half of the US population is poor, or one emergency away from economic ruin? Although we are all flawed, and a constant work in progress, I do hope that the gobs of people like Lebron James and Bill Simmons, who otherwise seem decent and nice, will connect the dots and start doing the right thing. 

“The evils of capitalism, are as real as the evils of militarism, and evils of racism.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whether it is capitalism that leads to greed, or greed that leads to capitalism, we live in a society where too much is never enough. When will it end, and how do we stop it? I recently learned that a common theme for Ancient Aboriginal cultures was that the accumulation of private property beyond a person’s needs was a sign of mental illness. Native Americans call it “Wetiko”, and use the word to describe an evil spirit that takes over someone, and leads to selfishness, insatiable greed, and consumption as an end to itself. According to one Algonquin elder, “The future of human beings depends on us to see Wetiko/Wendigo and feed it with compassion, unity, and love. This is the only way we will control it.” 

The elder’s words reminded me of another quote from Dr. King, “Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.”

In other words, only love can save us, and nothing in nature takes more than what it needs. 

I like that. 🙂

Click here to learn why all children between the ages of 9-11 should have their cholesterol checked.
Click here to learn more about how fast food companies disproportionately target Black and Latino youth.
Click here to learn more about how VitaminWater is anything but a healthy beverage.
Click here to learn more about the highest paid sports commentators.
Click here to learn more from on the high costs of US military advertising. 
Click here to learn more about what Big Pharma spends on advertising.
Click here to learn more about the Native American word “Wetiko.
Click here to learn more about the lavish lifestyle of Lebron James.
Click here to learn more about the fancy lifestyle of Bill Simmons.
Click here for the trailer to Tom Shadyac’s excellent film, “I Am”.
Click here to learn more about US billionaires and the power of greed.
Click here to learn more about the transfer of wealth in the United States. 
Click here to learn more about other athletes who are shills for corporations that sell disease causing foods. 
Click here to learn why the “healthy” kids meals at McDonald’s and Burger King put children at risk for obesity, diabetes, cancer and other diet related diseases. 
Click here to learn more about the association between childhood obesity and premature death. 
Click here to learn more about how childhood obesity quadruples the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Click here to learn more from John Robbins on how McDonald’s targets children through predatory marketing. 

Image: Banksy

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1 year ago

Well said, Mike. Thank you for your good work. Even though, as you say, it no doubt falls on deaf ears. Reminds me of that Upton Sinclair quote: It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it-

Last edited 1 year ago by Dylan