Americans have been slow to embrace the Affordable Care Act and it’s slow-to-become-functional website, HealthCare.gov.
The Affordable Care Act needs to enlist more young people in order to have a chance at working, so President Barack Obama has put on the full-court press.
He began this week with an appearance on Zach Galifianakis’ "Between Two Ferns"and has now released a more straightforward commercial advertisement from one of America’s most straightforward athletes:
There is nothing remarkable about the ad itself. It amounts to nothing more than America’s most famous athlete reminding you to (pretty pretty please) just at least visit HealthCare.gov (because it would really help a lot).
While it is not an overtly political ad — regardless of your position on it, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land now — but it is about the closest thing to a political statement made by an American athlete of James’ stature since … since … since …
Can you even think of anybody? Do we have to go all the way back to Ali?
I’m not talking about professional athletes in general, or even great ones like Charles Barkley or Tony Gonzalez or any other big names that have taken open political stances. I’m talking about the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady — the walking shoe advertisements who know there’s money in being all things to all people.
As Jordan famously explained, "Republicans buy sneakers too."
That defines Jordan as one of the great sellouts of the 20th century, a man who used his platform as the most visible and influential athlete of his generation to serve companies that sold shoes and cheeseburgers and salty sugar water to kids that wanted to "be like Mike."
To this point in his career — and pardon another Jordan comparison, but this seems significant — James has ridden that same groove, even though he and Jordan portray themselves differently when shilling product. Jordan was always some kind of (weirdly smug) superhero in his ads, whereas James has marketed himself as a family man, the smiling Boy Next Door Who Happens To Be The Best Basketball Player In The World. But he has been equally apolitical.
Until now. Though I don’t imagine this is the beginning of James’ transition into Ali, or even Barkley. I also suspect his shoes are going to continue to sell just fine.