James is the second African-American celebrity on Vogue's cover in recent years that has been captured in what some see as an unflattering pose — last March's Vogue cover of Jennifer Hudson with her mouth open, baring heavy cleavage was frowned upon by some media observers. "That raises my eyebrow as to how African-Americans are portrayed on mainstream magazine covers. You would not show Charlize Theron or Scarlett Johansson screaming," said Wilbekin.
"Every photograph that they've put of a dark person in recent years has never been good. Jennifer Hudson has her mouth wide open. LeBron James had his mouth wide open. We have other expressions," added Hardison.
Though the debate has been brewing for more than a week and had been covered by the Associated Press, USA Today and other mainstream media outlets, when WWD called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for comment, national spokesman Richard McIntire said it was the first time he'd been contacted about the issue. After seeing the cover, McIntire added: "In some ways, it's obvious that Kong poster type image is there. But I think that this is almost a generational thing where some younger folks who don't have that exposure may not even know what the King Kong movies were, may not get that. Some in their 40s or older or a movie buff might be aware of that. Or someone wearing race-colored glasses might pick up on that as well. The thing we found most interesting is that the other images of LeBron James are nothing like this. They are the typical cool, laid-back, smooth image that LeBron often portrays. But we know that magazine covers try to be provocative, and that's what's going on here."