clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The problem with LeBron James’ ‘Taco Tuesday’ videos

James’ weekly videos seem fun at first — until he uses a stereotypical Mexican accent.

LeBron James looks distressed on the court.
We need to talk about LeBron James’ `Taco Tuesday` videos.

LeBron James spent his summer recharging after the Lakers missed the playoffs, creating a new tradition in the James household and for his fans, as well. Taco Tuesday has become so synonymous with his brand in the last few months that he attempted to trademark the term, which was later declined.

But something happens towards the end of every video of James showing off his tacos and then attempting to embarrass his family in the most dad way. He concludes with a long, boisterous chant of “Taco Tuesday,” followed by a shorter exclamation of the phrase. And in that transition lies a familiar and upsetting feeling, especially as a Mexican-American.

It morphs into a stereotypical Mexican accent.

As others have already pointed out, it’s an accent present in caricatures like the Looney TunesSpeedy Gonzales, the sombrero-wearing mouse who was often portrayed as running to and from the United States-Mexico border. And while James’ accent is not as malignant as Gonzales’ presence in the cartoons, it’s not entirely benign either. It freely perpetuates the same caricature, albeit in a subtle way, and can lead to an irresponsible continuation of the offensive trope.

To see James, whether on a basketball court or behind a podium, is to see the massive impact he has across the country and across the globe. And we’ve seen his impact through vehicles like his HBO show The Shop. California governor Gavin Newsom appeared on the show to sign a bill that would allow college athletes to profit from their likeness. But we’ve also seen how James’ impact can swing in the opposite direction, such as when he critiqued Daryl Morey’s comments on Hong Kong while glossing over the human rights issues that are the core of the issue.

And that same force is present in his Taco Tuesday videos. Fans of James could assume what he’s been doing is acceptable and later begin to repeat it. This can happens online, and it has already culminated in a physical space: a Lakers home game.

In the blowout victory where James would sit out most of the fourth quarter, fans sitting near the front row kept egging on him to do the chant, which he did. And a significant number of the 20,000 folks in attendance parroted the call. They were being lighthearted, celebrating the victory. But they were also inadvertently disregarding the accent as not offensive.

That apathy is part of a larger stigma for Mexicans and Latinx folks as a whole. It’s partially what allows the current administration to have detention centers across the southern border, and it’s what allows the president to continue antagonizing Mexicans with the hopes of building a border wall.

This is by no means just about James. Banner Society’s Alex Kirshner has described James as the sport world’s moral conscience, and while that remains true, he’s human and makes mistakes just like anyone. But with an audience as big and as attentive as his, it’s important for everyone to identify and change this behavior. Rather than attempting to throw stones, this can be a learning opportunity not just for James but for everyone else who is familiar with his Taco Tuesday videos.

Mexicans and Latinx folks are more than just a dish and an accent. I urge everyone to learn about all Latinx cultures, and for James, it’s right in his backyard. Los Angeles is a city where almost half of the population is Latinx. He can experience the rich cultures and foods of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and all other countries just by taking a walk outside Staples Center.

And James can still have his weekly Taco Tuesday videos — so long as he drops the accent.