Dear LeBron: Here’s the COVID-19 Help You Requested in Your Spider-Man Meme
LeBron James is not only one of the greatest basketball players ever, he’s committed to being a leader in the African American community in the fight against inequality. But his Thursday Instagram meme showing three cartoon Spider-Men pointing at each other—one labeled “covid,” one labeled “flu,” one labeled “cold”—with his message: “Help me out folks” was a blow to his worthy legacy. The meme’s implication is that LeBron doesn’t understand the difference among these three illnesses, even after all the information that’s been presented in the press. Well, since he asked, let me help him out by explaining the difference—and how knowing that difference might save lives, especially in the Black community.
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First, let’s put his meme in context. In September, LeBron stated: “I don’t talk about other people and what they should do. We’re talking about individual bodies. We’re not talking about something political or racism or police brutality. I don’t think I personally should get involved in what other people do for their bodies and livelihoods ... I know what I did for me and my family ... But as far as speaking for everybody and their individualities and things they want to do, that’s not my job.”
Here’s the first problem with that statement: With 106 million Instagram followers, making such a post is automatically politically impactful because he questions the validity of the efforts to get the country vaccinated. As is evident by some of the comments that cheer LeBron’s post, he’s given support to those not getting vaccinated, which makes the situation for all of us worse by postponing our health and economic recovery. The CDC reports that those who are unvaccinated are 9 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital and 14 times more likely to die from COVID than those vaccinated. The number rises to 20 time more likely when compared to someone who’s gotten a booster shot. By posting the uninformed meme, LeBron has encouraged vaccine hesitancy which puts lives and livelihoods at risk.
Here’s the second problem with that statement: He says we’re not talking about racism, but we most definitely are. As of December 2020, about 97.9 out of every 100,000 African Americans had died from COVID-19, a third higher than that for Latinos (64.7 per 100,000), and more than double that for whites (46.6 per 100,000) and Asians (40.4 per 100,000). According to an article on the U.S. National Library of Medicine site, “The overrepresentation of African Americans among confirmed COVID-19 cases and number of deaths underscores the fact that the coronavirus pandemic, far from being an equalizer, is amplifying or even worsening existing social inequalities tied to race, class, and access to the health care system.”