CLEVELAND -- They're taking the jerseys off their backs for LeBron James. Then tossing them away -- for a good cause.
Stung by the NBA superstar's decision to leave Cleveland and play for Miami, Cavaliers fans have been unloading their unwanted No. 23 jerseys, T-shirts and other clothing items bearing James' name at locations around the city. Organizers are shipping the discarded James gear to homeless shelters in South Florida.
"It's like any breakup," said Beau Miller, who began the campaign with three friends. "You want to give all your stuff back."
For the past week, Cleveland fans have been dropping off their LeBron-related items at Yours Truly Restaurants in Northeast Ohio. Miller said he and his friends wanted to turn a negative situation into a positive and that the response has been "extraordinary."
"We wanted something good to come out of this," he said. "We didn't want another 'I hate LeBron campaign.' There's enough of that going around."
Doug Libelich, manager of the Yours Truly location in Shaker Heights, Ohio, said there has been a steady flow of fans -- mostly young ones -- ridding themselves of LeBron-related clothing, including the iconic 23 jerseys, which were wildly popular during James' seven seasons with the Cavaliers.
"It's been picking up in the last few days," he said. "All kinds of stuff."
James' messy separation with Cleveland has caused a negative backlash against the 25-year-old, who announced his decision to leave the Cavs as a free agent during a one-hour TV special on July 8. Following his announcement, some fans burned James' jersey in protest.
While appreciating the pain James caused Cleveland fans, Miller, along with friends Chris Jungjohann, Andrew De Crane and Tim Zeller, saw his departure as an opportunity to help those less fortunate. Along with donating the clothing, the group began breakupwithlebron.com, where they are selling T-shirts with the slogan "It's Not Us, It's You," on the front.
Proceeds from the $15 shirts are going to the Cleveland City Mission.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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