Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James knows what it’s like when fans express trade outrage through jersey-burning – and said it’s got to stop. “The burning of the jersey thing is getting ridiculous now! The man was traded. What do u not understand?” James wrote on Twitter about Celtics fans torching the jerseys of new Cavs trade, Isaiah Thomas. Thomas was one of three players the Cavs acquired in exchange for Kyrie Irving.
James also defended former Utah Jazz player Gordon Hayward, whose fans burned his jerseys when he signed with the Celtics as a free agent this summer. “Gordon Hayward paid [his] dues as well and decided to do what’s best for him and family. Put in the work, got better … Became an All-Star, etc!! If these guys weren’t good, u guys would be the first to say ‘get them up out of here.'”
Jersey-burning is a complicated, love-hate tradition among basketball fans. Boston Celtics fans had a huge affinity for Thomas, who recently led the team to the Eastern Conference finals. Utah Jazz fans also loved Hayward for carrying them to the second round of the playoffs.
It’s a cycle that James personally experienced twice in the last 10 years: in 2010, when he left the Cavs for the Miami Heat (which caused an uproar known as “The Decision”) and again in 2014 when he left the Heat to return to Cleveland. James lead the Cavaliers to the finals in each of the three seasons since his return, which repaired his relationship with Cleveland fans who still felt resentment over the 2010 “Decision.”
As James alluded on Twitter, trades happen for all kinds of reasons – personal, professional and frequently a combination of the two. But attacking players’ characters by calling them “traitors” and “cowards” is a textbook case of bad sportsmanship.