Last week, when LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers and John Tavares with the Toronto Maple Leafs, there was a lot to be said on free agency. But as pointed out to me, it was not so much about what the decisions were – but how the decisions were delivered.
For those who may not know or remember, LeBron James announced he was leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat eight years ago. Live on ESPN, "The Decision" had our family racing home from Veterans Memorial Pool to learn how LeBron was taking his talents to South Beach and after a few minutes of overhype and idle chatter we switched off the broadcast to see some cartoons.
Disappointed in his decision, Cleveland fans burned his jersey, and the giant Nike billboard was taken down. But then LeBron reached out to his audience again, came home and gave Cleveland an NBA championship in 2016.
Unlike the vitriol surrounding the original over-the-top Miami announcement, LeBron laid low in 2018 and a single public relations-like Tweet announced his new LA home. Cleveland devotees appreciated how he delivered them a championship, no hard feelings. LA fans were ecstatic. All was calm in LeBron nation.
For Islander fans however, it was a completely different media circus with John Tavares. The face of the Isles kept his decision under wraps, failed to allow the Islanders to trade him and get some prospects and, depending on your viewpoint, either disrespected the team who had embraced him for so many years or proved that the team didn't know how to do right by him. So it's off to Toronto with an announcement. Tweet. Done.
I heard a caller on the radio say that athletes deserve all the money they can get because every play can be their last. I get that. But aside from the money, isn't there a better way to announce the news and do it right? LeBron has done it three different ways – angering, placating and reasoning with his fan base. John turned his head and faced his future – without the Isles.
It can't be easy being these men in the media maelstrom that is 2018. But come on guys. Put the social media aside and just reach out to your fans. Your decision doesn't have to be loved, but at least it can be respected.
A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.