LeBron James Breaks Silence on Darfur

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, the league's reigning MVP, recorded a public service announcement as well. His was the first released by Aid Still Required and garnered nationwide attention. But when we asked Bryant's representative if he would talk with "Outside the Lines" further about the issue and his involvement, we were told no, because the issue "might be becoming too controversial."

The Houston Rockets were reluctant to speak as well, but for far different reasons. Yao Ming is a teammate and they said that anything they would say could be misinterpreted in China, which would make things understandably difficult for Yao.

Chris Paul was willing to speak with us, but admitted to not knowing much about what was going on in China, choosing instead to focus on issues closer to home, like helping to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Most NBA athletes have chosen to support causes at home, something Barkley said he understands.

"I don't believe in cleaning up somebody else's house when your house is dirty," he said. "These guys got a great opportunity to learn. They should know about China and Darfur and the Sudan. Of course they should. But I'm pretty sure they got issues in Los Angeles. And I've been to Cleveland. LeBron's got his hands full with Cleveland."

Thomas, though, believes in Newble's cause and remains the only player outside of the Cleveland team to sign the letter. He believes that if Bryant and James would join with them on Darfur or other causes, they could effect great change.

"What was so special about the '60s is you had the top, top athletes [speaking out politically]," Thomas said. "Jim Brown, Kareem and Bill Russell, at the top of their crafts. I have a voice, but it wouldn't be on the same level as somebody like Kobe or LeBron."

A few weeks after the initial request by "Outside the Lines," an e-mail arrived from the Cavs, reading, "I think we can get that interview with LeBron for you now." We arranged a time and place — after practice during the first round of the playoffs against the Wizards, in a private dining room at the Cavs' hotel in Washington.

An animal rights convention was being held at the same hotel, and the scene had an eerily Hollywood vibe, even though it was in the nation's capital — Pamela Anderson, Donatella Versace, Rob Lowe passed through the lobby just before the Cavaliers' bus pulled in and their stars disembarked.

James came right into the room, sat down, and we quickly learned with his first answer that he wasn't going to shy away from the issue.

"I didn't sign the letter right then and there so now it's blown up," he said. "No one heard my side of the story, but automatically it's 'LeBron didn't sign the letter, he doesn't care.' But for me to try to create awareness of the situation that's going on in Darfur and other places, for me, in the position I am, I should speak on it and I am gonna speak on it."

James told us he spent time over the previous year educating himself about China. He realizes that his voice is powerful and he will be heard. He has yet to sign the letter but said he will continue to speak about the conflict as the Olympics draw closer. He said he hopes the NBA Olympians will band together with a plan on how to address the situation. He spoke eloquently for 15 minutes, and insisted he didn't care about endorsements or contracts or anything but doing what he felt was right.

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