Has the shine worn off LeBron James in Cleveland? From the latest development from Cleveland city leaders and Nike, it appears that’s a possibility.
The CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER reports today the Cleveland Planning Commission refused to approve a 10-story mural of James on a downtown building because it was “overt” advertising. Of course, that didn’t stop the same commission from approving a Nike billboard of the same size featuring James two years ago.
Cleveland design officials sent Nike Inc. and LeBron James back to the drawing board this morning, saying a proposed 10-story mural of the basketball star crosses the line from civic art into a giant ad for Nike products.
The previously approved billboard was part of Nike’s national “We are all witnesses” ad campaign, and featured James and the Nike swoosh logo. That mural is still on a building across from Quicken Loans Arena.
Nike’s new billboard proposal would feature a bare-chested James, “his skin a scaly armor.” The scales are designed to replicate the look of Nike’s new “combat” apparel line.
Cleveland officials felt that crossed the line from “civic art” to “overt advertising.”
To be fair, I think the folks in Cleveland have a point. The scaly skin thing is a little ridiculous, and no doubt an aggressive marketing push. But the previous billboard was also branded with the Nike logo, which sends mixed signals.
Put it this way, if James made a full commitment to re-sign with Cleveland when his contract expires after this season, do you think the city would be stonewalling the billboard? The tone deaf James doesn’t understand just how many people in Northeast Ohio he’s offended with his constant carping about his pending free agency. Not to mention his maintaining Akron as his hometown, not Cleveland. (That’s more important to Clevelanders than you might think.)
I do think the planning commission has a legitimate point about the scaly skin billboard, that it’s crass commercialism that goes over the line. But if James pledged his full allegiance to Cleveland, I have a sneaky feeling Nike would get what Nike wants when it came to James.