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LeBron James and the Courtside Beer

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Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James jokingly acts like he’s going to drink a fan’s beer during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday in Cleveland. The Cavaliers beat the Toronto Raptors 116-105. Photo: Leah Klafczynski / Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal

The other day the Cleveland Cavaliers were routing the Toronto Raptors in the first game of their second-round playoff series when Cavaliers star LeBron James found himself on the sideline near a vendor delivering beer to fans. He jokingly reached out, took the beer, pretended he was going to take a sip, and then smilingly handed back to the server. No big deal? Just a player having a bit of fun? Nope, it’s grown into a full-blown controversy.

The brewery whose beer James took from the tray tweeted an image of it on their Twitter account. Unfortunately, this counts as advertising their product and James’ legal team immediately sought to have it removed. The legal aspects of this are fairly clear. You can’t use someone’s image in an advertisement without their permission. For an athlete of James’ stature there are tens of millions of dollars at stake.

If this was legal, anytime a celebrity did anything in public the company whose product was being used could use images taken at that moment for advertising purposes.

All of that is merely prelude. After I finished reading the story I scrolled down to the comments section. James is both beloved and much hated in the sporting world, as are most superstars. I was surprised to find most of the comments lambasting James. I understand that people don’t like him, but the circumstances of this incident seem so clear to me. Legally he had to protect his image.

I wrote a comment politely explaining everything I mentioned above. It’s illegal to use a celebrity’s image in an advertisement without their permission. Heck, it’s illegal for a company to use anyone’s image in advertisement without their permission. I didn’t call anyone names. I didn’t throw out insults. I just mentioned that it’s clearly against the law to use someone’s image in these circumstances.

Then the hate began. To be fair I got a good number of comments agreeing with me and Liking my original post. Still, I was a little taken aback by how little most people cared for the obvious legalities when it came to a player they personally disliked.

He had it coming! He’s spoiled! He stole the beer!

And of course, the plethora of personal insults. Not that I’m bothered by that, it’s all rather humorous.

I just think the entire episode gives us an insight into human nature. People who hate James are going to find a reason to call his actions deplorable. Those who like James are going to find them reasonable. Not that I’m particularly a fan.

One hopes there will be an amenable conclusion to this little tempest in a teapot. Maybe the brewery could offer James some of their product as payment for the publicity. Maybe James could stop by the brewery on a promotional tour for some small fee, making it a win-win situation.

And to all those writing nasty comments to me, I love you brothers and sisters! Keep up the passion.

By Tom Liberman

Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time. 

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