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Fab Flash: LeBron James Vogue Cover Causes Controversy

While there was initial excitement that basketball star LeBron James is the first black man ever on a Vogue cover, the April cover image has stirred up more than a little controversy.

Detractors are focusing on the prevalence of racial stereotypes: James in King Kong-like pose, grasping cover partner Gisele Bundchen in an overpowering way. James himself, however, is pleased with the cover's outcome: "Everything my name is on is going to be criticized in a good way or bad way. Who cares what anyone says?"

That's a very level-headed way of seeing it. What do you think?


tiaramh tiaramh 8 years
I know this is a fairly old post but i'd still like to comment. I remember when i first saw this cover, and I thought and still think that its great shot. I almost wish Gisele wasnt in the photo because she doesnt add to it as much as i feel she could have. Whats great about it is that it's so HIM. Thats is his personality and he's really just being his self and I think its great! puts a smile on my face. But thats the funny thing about photos... they capture emotions and beauty and all that but they are often misinterpretted and blown out of proportion. Like those Miley cyrus photos, which were so simple and plain yet somehow were described as "seductive" And when has king king ever looked as good as lebron james?
hartsfull hartsfull 9 years
I wish first to say sorry to bcastaneda (or anyone) if I came across as callus or offensive. I want to make it clear that I get your point about a white privilege. My thoughts were only of my dislike of racism towards black, although, totally misspoken. I also didn’t mean to disregard what a black person might feel looking at this picture and that was UNINTENTIONALY insensitive of me. I’d like to note that sometimes a person’s lack of seeing something as racist toward other black people (or any other race) is often not that we are being racist or insensitive. It is just hard to see things that way when I/we/a person doesn’t feel or look at things that way. Please just think about what I’m saying. I truly don’t want to offend you. I honestly want us to reach each other. It was naïve of me to imply that talking about it continues racism. That is what I wanted to get across. However, I realize I should have said things different. I do think that it is good to talk and discuss our feelings about these issues. It is certainly important for black people to voice what is hurtful. As well as for other races to voice what is offensive to them. I would never want to suppress that. I didn’t mean to say if we avoid talking about it, it would be gone. I only meant I didn’t like it being brought up, BY THOSE critics, BEFORE it is an issue. Not that a person shouldn't consider what they do, say, or write before it is put out for all to see. But, sometimes it seems things are made into something that isn't, just by the mention of it. That, might be a far reaching/confusing concept and I just shouldn't have even brought it up. It was stupid and I'll admit that. I have heard of the primate/African comparison before, a long time ago. I was disgusted by the remark then as much now. So, my mind was just on the racism toward black people and my being sick of that. I think all racism is detrimental to humanity. To me God (or whatever anyone conceives our creator to be) created ALL of us. He didn’t make us look the same just as he didn’t make flowers, trees, animals and any other part of nature the same. It wouldn’t occur to me to question the placement of my garden no more or less than the placement (or actions) of people. To say that white people have no understanding of prejudice isn't correct. How would someone who isn't white know that, just as how would a white person relate to black racism? I grew up in New Mexico in an almost complete Spanish community. I faced prejudice because I was white everyday. My sister had to run home from school everyday because some Spanish girls wanted to kick her a**. They (5) finally caught her and succeeded. Do I, or my sister resent Spanish people? No, of course not. My daughter, when she was about 6, experienced racism from her black teacher and some other teachers at her school before that one. To me, they had just undone any kind of anti-racism I’ve influenced her. Before then, she had no concept of judging someone just by his or her color. They are the ones who brought it to her attention. I have also experienced racism from black people when I did nothing to them. When a white teacher mistreats a black student it is equally disdainful, but that doesn’t make it ok for it to happen the other way around. It also only continues the racism. I am definitely not saying that there aren’t white people with atrocious racism in their hearts still after 200 years. Any of that you have suffered from I am deeply sadden by. Lebron himself was happy. I think he proved to be the bigger man than those critics because he chose to disregard them. Their thoughts meant nothing to him. He was untouchable by them. I hope I have done better in explaining my thoughts and in the future will take more care in posting them.
jessb408 jessb408 9 years
I honestly don't understand what all the controversy is about. I would have never looked at the cover of Vogue and seen King Kong. The fact that a professional athlete, and the first black man ever, is on the cover of Vogue is pretty awesome. Being from Cleveland myself, I am especially excited to see this. Some people will see racism and controversy in every comment or picture, and that will probably never be able to be controlled. The fact that Lebron, a black man, sees nothing wrong with it should let people know that racism is not what they are seeing. They are only seeing a professional athlete letting out the same emotion he shows on the basketball court every night. I honestly don't believe Vogue would intentionally put anything they thought would even be perceived in that way on the cover. The editors who put these magazines together are taught to think about these things before they go to print. I think it is an awesome cover, and I wish everyone could see it for that.
SensitiveKim SensitiveKim 9 years
Also: Check out Gisele's posture... that is not the pose of someone who's pleased about where they're sitting. I showed this to one of my professors and she was pretty appalled. Interestingly, she said to look at the picture below their faces. It looks like the female figure is trying to get away from the man. And you can't exactly call her extremely forced smile a look of genuine happiness. I just think Vogue could have done such a better job of this. It's absolutely careless and in bad taste. When the first black man is used on Vogue's cover, there shouldn't BE a discourse on ancient racial stereotypes because the editors should know better than to allow that to sully what ought to be progress in a positive direction. And for all of you people saying you don't see it and people like me are racist for being observant: how thoroughly middle-class of you. Well done. Of course! Racism doesn't exist anymore! Woo! I particularly loved the 'we're all tired of it' comment. Right.
Lilavati Lilavati 9 years
To me, the picture is fun. Coulda looked a bit better though. I didn't have any racist associations unti I read about it. Having seen, , I can't help but see the ressemblance, but still don't see the racism. Maybe it is an allusion to King Kong, but in a fun way?
bcastaneda bcastaneda 9 years
Oh wow, some of these additional comments are even more ignorant than lots of other things I've read about this controversy. "Making things up," "too much time on their hands," "idiots?" Wow, way to be respectful- now I see that you're all right. It was absolutely out of line, unprovoked and out of context for me or any other person of any race, sex, creed or background to get AT ALL upset about the composition of this image. Of course it has nothing to do with race, how silly of us all! Once slaves were freed race became a non-issues and Black people in America were able to do any and everything their white counterparts could do. Well I mean, once the government outlawed their disenfranchisement. Actually I mean once they were able to go to school with whites. No, damn, I mean once Black people were no longer disproportionately in poverty or crowded in poor urban centers along with their other racial minority counterparts. Or oh wait, damn, I mean I'm so sorry for offending anyone by my being upset. Actually I'm not. It is absolutely ridiculous (and not to mention unwarranted) for anyone to tell ME or ANYONE ELSE who feels the pain of racial discrimination or exploitation that we should apologize for our feelings or that they are in some way illegitimate. Who the hell are any of you to tell me I have the right to feel any one way? That, in itself, is another form of oppression that I will not tolerate. And to you few Black people who were able to see this image and (after reading context and educating yourself on Black history in America and the use of Black bodies in photographic and artistic history) not be offended then congratulations, you are thankfully numbed to the dull and continuously nagging pain that is the gaping sore of being a (aware and educated) Black person in this country. I really do mean that, it's great that you can enjoy your life without having things like this provoke you in any way- but please, I ask of you to not rob those of us who DO hurt, who DO feel upset and who DO feel the injustice of our continued collective exploitation- don't rob us our opportunity to voice that pain because sometimes it's the only respite that we have from our second-class status in the minds and eyes of many of our supposed peers. And to those of you who are white, see no controversy, and are annoyed at those of us who do- please evaluate why it is that you are upset by the fact that someone, not connected to you, finds this disturbing. I'm pretty sure that nobody called you racist for quietly in your own mind/room/on your computer thinking that this ad was appropriate or non-offensive or, gasp!, well-composed. It is no fault of yours that you did not immediately notice the potentially problematic nature of this image and the painful history that it conjures up for many others- you could never in your life understand or fully empathize with the collective history that Black American (in this case descendants of American slavery) share. That's OKAY. What is not okay, however, is for you to have the audacity to make an attempt at telling others what they should or should not feel- that is when you cross the line from being acceptably and helplessly ignorant (not in a mean way, in the way of plain not knowing) to becoming an active participant in adding to the reasons why this image (along with its reception and subsequent discussions) is a problem. I'm not coming back here and saying anything else, because it is highly likely that people won't read what I'm saying for comprehension, rather they will probably skim it to find points to contradict or disprove. I won't dignify this with a response or acknowledgment. Please just know that this is one BLACK WOMAN's attempt at being honest with you all- at opening a very intimate side of myself to a board of people I know absolutely nothing about without attacking anyone or placing blame. I am simply trying to be honest and to share with you a tiny bit about why this image, and some of the responses to it, was genuinely HURTFUL to me PERSONALLY.
SShorty06111 SShorty06111 9 years
I also want to comment on angelik's post. Imagery such as this was used alot up until the late-mid 1900's. Having a gorillas was implying the scary dangerous black man. Propaganda like this was used to support that mentality, look even at comics strip from the early 1900's or old disney cartoons, even they did it. Its really bad to be naive and think well black men dont have fur. Read about theodore roosevelts view on race as well as newspapers and commentary from then and prior and even after, and it becomes very very evident
SShorty06111 SShorty06111 9 years
I personally dont see this as racist, but i understand how it can be interpreted that way. This country has had a bad history of perpetuating bad stereotypes of black men as hyper sexual beings especially after white women, as well as a history of scientists associating blacks with apes/ a lesser race compared to whites up until like the 30's and still present day, ie blacks viewed as lazy and not as smart
ranianed ranianed 9 years
I didnt see what they saw. Although i dont look for things to get pissed about either . . . I think there are honest to problems in this world not Vogue covers to find fault with . . . come on.
express-gal express-gal 9 years
I thought that this was a great cover for Vogue. They both looked amazing and athletic-which was one of the main ideas of this issue. I did not think King Kong at all. This is one of the faces that he makes on the court. I thought it was a great move for Vogue to have a young, African American man on their cover for the first time. Lebron James is a huge icon for this generation. Why not put him on the cover of Vogue! I loved it!
SensitiveKim SensitiveKim 9 years
I think it is pretty racist. The Germans used the same imagery in a much more negative context during the 1930s when the French were occupying the Rhineland with colonial soldiers. The idea was that savage black men were kidnapping and raping white women (they weren't, obviously, it was racial stereotyping due to national anxiety). I agree that that was a long time ago and the Vogue editor probably didn't MEAN to make that connection, but the fact that it does is not good.
AshLeeTa AshLeeTa 9 years
I think its a little far fetched to say its racist
remedios remedios 9 years
This sounds like a manufactured controversy.
chellybean chellybean 9 years
Gisele doesn't look overpowered to me. She looks, um, pretty happy.
sfiecb sfiecb 9 years
it's in no way racist to me, and when Fab pointed out the King Kong detail I had no idea that a giant gorilla was in any way correlated with African Americans and I still don't think anyone sees that. They are humans, King Kong is a terrorizing fictional creature and I think it's offensive to compare the two. LeBron was happy with the cover, and that's all that should matter. I think Vogue deserves congratulations for putting their first black man on the cover [although i wish they had done that sooner] and that even though there is in my opinion no reason for controversy, people are making it up just so they have something to talk about.
angelik416 angelik416 9 years
It is somewhat hard to deny the intentions of this photo, once seen side by side with what is assumed to be Annie Liebowitz's inspiration. This also explains a bit more why Gisele looks so stupidly awkward.
lizlee89 lizlee89 9 years
that's pretty stupid
luxelys luxelys 9 years
Let me preface my comment on Labron by saying I'm Black! That said, it is really sad that some Black people have too much time on their hands and are always looking for a reason to cry "racism" and then when there is a real instance, it's hard to say anything because you don't want to look like the losers that are always making bogus claims! THAT COVER IS AMAZING and I'm sad that these donkey's behinds have tarred it with this crap! Isn't Gisele an athlete? I thought she played volleyball in S. America, but maybe I'm confusing her with another model!
wrngco wrngco 9 years
anybody seee Chris Paul in men's Vogue HOTTest man alive
hartsfull hartsfull 9 years
I think everyone should start making their comments to the idiots who brought it all up in the first place. Pretty much we all agree that the cover is great. Everyone loves him and she's beautiful (I don't like her, but nevermind that :)). Pretty much everyone is tired of race being brought up. I know I am. I could care less about white with black. Why does is still matter about skin color? Can you imagine if everyone was debating this if it were about eye color or hair color? "People are going to say the blond girl looks dumb next to the smart brunette". Ha! If those people wouldn't have brought it up. We all probably wouldn't even be here. Yeah, there's still some blockheads who can't let it go. But let them be the ones who cause the riff with each other. Not the dummies who brought up, "Well this looks like racial blah blah, he looks blah blah". Anyone get what I mean?
SmuttyPop SmuttyPop 9 years
@Jessiebanana, the only people equating him to a primate is other black people. He is an ATHLETE and the issue is on ATHLETES and others with great bodies, of course he's going to be doing some form of movement on the cover? He looks like he is about to do a crossover, primate never came across my mind. I agree the race is always a factor and I believe that Vogue took steps to advert this type of situation. Did anyone notice that Gisele is covered up? This is an issue celebrating great bodies, she has one, but is fully covered. A black man with a half naked white woman sure would have gotten a lot of people's panties in a bunch. Had she been wearing a bikini that would have caused controversy as well. Again is this issue really about racism or is it about some black people being disappointed that he chose to be himself on that cover. That is who he is a young, strong, aggressive and powerful athlete. Would those complaining been happy if he had on a suit and sat passively ?
Cinimonstyk Cinimonstyk 9 years
Totally unnecessary controversy. And I am black! Honestly, when I saw this cover, I didn't associate it with the King Kong and Jane stereotype, or the black man getting his “white prize” as some have. And the reality of it is, now that these thoughts are publicized, I can see where a lot of people could lean to that interpretation.....and unnecessarily so. I honestly don't think this was the point, although “now” it could be drawn. But that's the world we live in. Half full or half empty. We can choose to look at this as a win in that, Vogue finally casted a black figure on their covers. If this was never done before, then this is a step forward. Or we can look at it as defeat, in that "the man” is still finding ways to hold us back! I chose to focus on the positive. LeBron is a VERY sexy man, and the world can't take that away from him. He's educated and successful, and he's doing what he's paid to do...put on his game face. These are the things I thought of when I saw that magazine cover. I think the fact that there are still so many racial undertones in America (with both blacks and whites alike) is why stuff like this keeps happening. WERE JUST PEOPLE, and we all come in different packaging, get over it!!!!! It just so happens that some peoples packaging is prettier than others, and this goes beyond color. Gisele and LeBron just happen to be ones in pretty packaging. And Vogue attempted to show the world! This is good people~!
libre1 libre1 9 years
I don;t know - I never would have even considered how this picture could be racist. I don't know, it almost seem that these people who cry 'racism' at practically everything, might be a touch sensitive? Why not point out the blindingly obvious examples of racism, when they occur, (and I hate to say it, but in situations where it really matters), and work to fix them?
MisterPinkNoTip MisterPinkNoTip 9 years
This is so silly. The cover is great. People are way too uptight. He's a professional athlete, of course he's going to look overpowering next to Gisele. This has nothing to do with his race, and everything to do with the fact that he is very tall and very muscular. People probably wouldn't have said anything if he were white though, which is upsetting. Why is there so much negativity focused toward this cover?
Wicked Wicked 9 years
When I looked at the cover without reading the description I never would have even thought of that stereotype, jeez.
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