LeBron James apologizes for sharing anti-Semitic song lyrics on Instagram

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James apologized on Sunday after quoting song lyrics on a post to his 45.8 million Instagram followers that featured the offensive phrase “getting that Jewish money.”

Wearing Lakers garb in the backseat of a car on Saturday, James shared the following lyrics from rapper 21 Savage’s song “ASMR” in an Instagram story: “We been getting that Jewish money, Everything is Kosher.” The Action Network’s Darren Rovell shared a screen grab of the story to his Twitter account:

James told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin after Sunday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that he felt the lyrics spoke to “a strength of the Jewish business community,” a misinterpretation that perpetuates a discriminatory stereotype. The historical link between Jewish people and money was anti-Semitic by nature, birthing mistrust of the community that carried through the Holocaust and still exists today.

“Apologies, for sure, if I offended anyone,” James told McMenamin. “That’s not why I chose to share that lyric. I always [post lyrics]. That’s what I do. I ride in my car, I listen to great music, and that was the byproduct of it. So I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn’t through the lens of a lot of people. My apologies. It definitely was not the intent, obviously, to hurt anybody.”

Doug Ellin, the creator of HBO’s “Entourage,” was among the most vocal critics of James’ Instagram post, writing, “This is an anti-Semitic stereotype used for centuries to foster hatred against Jews.

It was not lost on many of James’ critics that his decision to share the lyrics came a day after his own HBO show, “The Shop,” included a segment in which he said NFL owners have a “slave mentality.”

“In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality,” James said. “And it’s like, ‘This is my team. You do what the f— I tell y’all to do. Or we get rid of y’all.’”

A number of team owners in the NBA are Jewish, as is commissioner Adam Silver. The timing of James’ post — between Hanukkah and Christmas — also heightens attention to the offending remarks. Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA does not intend to fine James for sharing the lyrics on Instagram.

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EL SEGUNDO, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers poses for a portrait during media day at UCLA Health Training Center on September 24, 2018 in El Segundo, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
September 24, 2018; El Segundo, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James before speaking to media at UCLA Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 18: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first quarter of their game at Moda Center on October 18, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the basketball against Paul Millsap #4 of the Denver Nuggets on October 25, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James celebrates with fans after scoring during the overtime period of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Spurs won 143-142. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) grabs a rebound over Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap (4) during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Houston Rockets' Chris Paul, second from left, is held back by Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, left, as Paul fights with Lakers' Rajon Rondo, center obscured, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Rockets won, 124-115. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers misses a last second shot in front of Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs to lose 143-142 in overtime at Staples Center on October 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 24: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 24, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Lakers defeated the Suns 131-113. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the basketball against Paul Millsap #4 of the Denver Nuggets on October 25, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 10: LeBron James #23 and Lance Stephenson #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate after James made a shot against the Golden State Warriors and was fouled during their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on October 10, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles reacts during a preseason game against the Denver Nuggets at Valley View Casino Center on September 30, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 02: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a shot in front of Torrey Craig #3 of the Denver Nuggets during a preseason game at Staples Center on October 2, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 18: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first quarter of their game at Moda Center on October 18, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the basketball against Paul Millsap #4 of the Denver Nuggets on October 25, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers scores a basket and gets fouled by Mo Bamba #5 of the Orlando Magic during the first half at Staples Center on November 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 14: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to his missed shot as he is fouled during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on November 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - FEBRUARY 07: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers, center, is picked up by LeBron James #23 and Kyle Kuzma #0 after scoring the game winning basket against the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter at TD Garden on February 07, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Lakers defeat the Celtics 129-128. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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James’ decision brought questions about the offensiveness of quoting song lyrics back to the surface in the NBA. Milwaukee Bucks rookie Donte DiVincenzo came under similar fire when a 2011 tweet quoting rapper Meek Mill and including the n-word resurfaced during the NCAA title game in April.

James learned a history lesson that will inform his ability to better understand the Jewish community. Discovering what others find offensive and working to correct your influence over that behavior is more important than any argument about contradictory moral stances or the degree to which quoting lyrics is problematic. Hopefully, that same lesson has as far a reach as James’ Instagram following.

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