LeBron James Family Foundation Announces Partnership with ... Crypto.com

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LeBron James Family Foundation Announces Partnership with ... Crypto.com
Courtesy LJFF
In a press release Friday morning, the LeBron James Family Foundation announced a new partnership with Crypto.com, the Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange app that also recently purchased naming rights to the Los Angeles Staples Center, where the Lakers play.

James said the partnership was premised on his promise not to let the people of his community behind. It will give students in LJFF's I Promise program and their families "access to the tools and educational resources needed to participate and succeed in building Web3, the future of the internet."

Web3 is another way of talking about blockchain technology and the so-called decentralized internet. What the tools and educational resources will consist of was not specified, but Crypto.com can be counted upon to promote the idea of token-based economics in a youth-oriented way. (A terrifying thought.)

James remains admirably committed to the people of Akron, and has invested millions of dollars in supporting the youth and those in poverty there. This partnership was framed in those terms.

"Crypto.com and I are aligned on the need to educate and support my community with the information and tools they need for inclusion," James was quoted in the statement. "I’m looking forward to working with them to bring these opportunities to my community."

But this just feels off, a branding effort that does a lot more for Crypto.com than it does for the students in LJFF's I Promise programs.

Crypto.com last week made news when hackers made off with $15 million in Ethereum, a cryptocurrency. It has a commercial out now featuring Matt Damon exulting in the idea of taking risk, likening cryptocurrency investment to summiting Everest and going to outer space and stuff. (Financial risk-taking is of course a fun hobby only for those with money to burn.) As a corporate entity, Crypto.com does not give one iota of a shit about the children of Akron. It does, however, care about legitimizing itself via brand partnerships of this sort. If Akron's own LeBron James is singing the praises of crypto as a financial inclusion strategy, imagine how many people might hop on board!

More broadly, the rise of cryptocurrency exchanges and things like non-fungible tokens is a chilling development during the coronavirus era, as Canadian journalist Luke Savage argued this week, calling the NFT craze a "glorified Pokémon card ponzi scheme." 

The NFT boom, fittingly enough, has coincided quite directly with a period of particularly grotesque collective hardship and surging inequality. As both a threat to public health and an historic economic disruption, the COVID era has been an extraordinarily difficult time for many working and middle-class Americans, but a veritable land of milk and honey for its corporate overlords and lumpen bourgeoisie.

Events of recent years have arguably represented the best occasion in decades to reimagine the fundamentals of American society and transform the economy into something other than a handful of hedge funds and tech monopolies sitting on top of each other inside a trench coat. Instead, the country’s bipartisan ruling class opted to greet mass death with a dollop of inadequate and temporary social protections while its criminally undertaxed ultrarich were left to seek out novel ways of profiting from their own money and new totems of their elite status.

Nothing has been more symbolic of this trajectory than NFTs, the latest symptom of a decadent and increasingly post-democratic consensus resting on little more than predatory rent-seeking and boundless commodification.
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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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