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Kent State Alumni and Students Lead "Keep LeBron" Efforts

Posted May, 27, 2010

Kent State University alumni and students are involved in two projects aimed at convincing basketball superstar LeBron James to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  James becomes a free agent on July 1, and his plans for the future have been the focus of intense media speculation.

Kent State Student Austin Briggs and the Video Becomes Online Viral Hit
“We Are LeBron,” a music video of Cleveland celebrities urging James to stay with the team, was conceived by comedian and Kent State alumnus Mike Polk. The song, a “We Are the World” parody viewable at Break.com, is a viral sensation that attracted nearly one million hits in its first week online.

Polk started honing his humor skills when he was a student at Kent State, where he launched the sketch comedy troupe “Last Call” on the university’s TV-2 cable channel.  After graduation, he continued on with the group as “Last Call Cleveland.” He is now a full-time employee of the video website Break.com as well as a part-time stand-up comedian.

Polk enlisted another Kent State graduate, former Ohio Film Office director Christina Grozik, to produce the project. Grozik has worked on a number of film projects with high-profile actors, such as George Clooney, Denzel Washington and Paul Giamatti. She is now a film production and marketing consultant.

Polk, who directed the video, originally started with a list of about 10 local celebrities he was hoping to sign up.  “I thought ‘the more the merrier,’ and Mike was open to suggestions,” Grozik said. Through Grozik’s connections in Columbus, the pair was able to secure Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s participation.

The taping took place on May 3. Ten Kent State students volunteered to assist the production, handling parking, check-in, security and hospitality, and a number of the students made the final cut of the video. The students were recruited by Traci Easley Williams, instructor with Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Department of Pan-African Studies.

The Kent State students were a huge help, according to Polk. “It was quite an undertaking, and they really made things run smoothly,” Polk said.

“I’ve worked with Kent State students before, so I knew that if they were handling things I wouldn’t have to worry,” Grozik added. “They were incredible.”

"Witness Mobile" Transformed into a Mobile Petition

Kent State student Austin Briggs is no newcomer to the “Keep LeBron” world. The 23-year-old, who just completed his junior year, launched his campaign last fall and remains undaunted in his quest to bring the community together for the cause. Briggs and partner Brittany Neal, a fellow Kent State student, founded the company Pleasedontleave23.com as part of an entrepreneurship class at Kent State.

Briggs has now transformed his popular “Witness Mobile,” a customized 1987 Cutlass Supreme emblazoned with the Nike Witness logo, into a petition for fans to sign. Briggs first garnered local media attention when he unveiled the vehicle in a series of YouTube videos last spring.

Briggs has made extensive improvements to the “Witness Mobile.” The car has been repainted and outfitted with new wheel rims and Lamborghini-style vertical doors. The hood has been transformed into a petition for fans to sign, while the trunk is reserved for the signatures of local celebrities and politicians.

Briggs’ passion is not diminished by the Cavs’ early elimination from the playoffs. “I feel it is more important than ever to show how much we care,” he said.

Briggs has been busier than ever. He recently signed up snack food giant Shearer’s as a sponsor and landed a deal to sell “Please Don’t Leave 23” T-shirts at the local outlet of retailer Nordstom.  In early June, he will take the car to a meeting of the Akron-based “Grandmothers for LeBron” fan club.

On June 10, the “Witness Mobile” will be part of a “Keep LeBron” event at Crocker Park in Westlake. Fans can sign the car beginning at 7:30 p.m.  prior to a free outdoor screening of the documentary “More Than a Game” at 9 p.m.  Some of Briggs’ videos will be shown prior to the film, which is an account of James’ journey to greatness.

From June 11-29, the “Witness Mobile” will be on display at the Visitors Center of Positively Cleveland (Greater Cleveland's convention and visitors bureau) at 100 Public Square in the Higbee Building. Fans are invited to stop by to sign the car weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On his website, Briggs also has been urging fans to write letters to James, share favorite “LeBron moments” and explain why he should remain in Cleveland.  Excerpts from the letters - read by a narrator over a photo montage - will be posted on YouTube, and Briggs promises to deliver all submissions to James.

Efforts Stress That LeBron Should Stay
The media frenzy about James has been good for both Polk and Briggs.  Both efforts have been covered by dozens of national and regional media outlets, and the interest doesn’t seem to be abating.

What effect will these campaigns have on James’ decision?  “I heard Jim Rome (national TV and radio sports personality) saying my video would probably help LeBron leave because of the poor singing,” Polk said. “I really don’t think it will affect his decision.  But it can’t hurt for him to see that people here really like him and want him to stay.”

Briggs is serious about the consequences of a possible James departure.  “I think LeBron leaving would be devastating for Northeast Ohio,” Briggs said.  “Not just for the fans, but for the economy and reputation of the region.”

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Photo Caption:
Kent State student Austin Briggs has transformed his “Witness Mobile” into a petition for fans to sign to urge LeBron James to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Media Contacts:

Austin Briggs, abriggs5@kent.edu, 216-773-1275
Mike Polk, mikegpolk@yahoo.com, 216-235-3538
Bob Burford, rburford@kent.edu, 330-672-8516