The second week of June marked Game 4 of the NBA finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers were gearing up to play the Golden State Warriors. All eyes were on Lebron James just before the game began. As the Cavs huddled around head coach David Blatt, the cameras screened through to catch a glimpse of James. James adjusted his uniform and the cameras inadvertently aired his genitals to an audience of 18.5 million viewers.
Although the shot was no more than seconds, it did not escape the attention of viewers. Within minutes the internet was filled with screenshots of the incident exposing James and .gifs of the exact moment it happened. Lebron’s night didn’t get any easier after the game began. He was fouled, sent sailing into the camera crews, and ended up with a gash on the back of his head.
American viewers are no strangers to accidental nudity. Who can forget the Janet Jackson performance where 90 million Super Bowl viewers watched Justin Timberlake reveal her breast? The Federal Communications Commission holds broadcasters responsible for the content they air even where that content is aired accidentally. In the Jackson-Timberlake incident, the FCC fined CBS a record-breaking $550,000. The Supreme Court would later overturn this fine. In May of this year the FCC fined a local television station in Virginia $325,000 for accidentally showing a pornography website while interviewing a former porn star. In a statement following the incident the National Journal wrote, “The FCC has long barred radio and broadcast TV stations from airing indecent material such as curse words and nudity.”
Celebrity nudity has been somewhat of a hot topic this year. Several female stars went after those who sought to make their private images public. Earlier this year women such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Rihanna, and Ariana Grande hired attorneys to protect their private images. Cease and desist letters were sent to the forums on which the photos were displayed and companies responsible for storing the data were threatened with lawsuits. Lawrence’s images were stolen, and likened the act to a sex crime.
Although the image of Lebron’s nudity was not “hacked” in the traditional sense, it certainly was taken without his express permission. A key difference in this instance, however, is that Lebron was in a public place and was aware of the very public broadcasting that was surrounding him. Most cases to remove nude images from the web involve individuals who believed their photographs were stored privately.
Thus far, neither Lebron nor the FCC have taken any legal action to have the images censored or removed.