LeBron James continues to speak out about social and political issues, and on Monday, as the school built by his LeBron James Family Foundation opened, that meant talking again about President Donald Trump, the man he once called a “bum.”
“We are in a position right now in America where this race thing has taken over . . . because I believe our president is kinda trying to divide us,” James told CNN before the opening of his I Promise School in his Akron, Ohio, hometown. Questioned by CNN’s Don Lemon about the use of a qualifier, James modified his response.
“Is. Is. I don’t want to say ‘kind of.’ He’s dividing us,” James said of Trump. “And what I’ve noticed over the last few months, he’s kinda used sport to kinda divide us. And that’s something that I can’t relate to, because I know that sport was the first time I ever was around someone white. I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them and they got an opportunity to learn about me and we became very good friends. I was like, wow, this is all because of sports.
“Sports has never been something that divides people,” James said. “It’s always been something that brings [people] together.”
Don’t count on James, who used that three-letter word to describe Trump when the president uninvited the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry from the White House, to visit Trump’s home should his new team win the NBA championship.
Asked what he would say to Trump if he were sitting across from him, he replied: “I would never sit across from him. I’d sit across from Barack [Obama], though.”
Speaking out in such fashion can make an athlete a lightning rod, as James found out in February when Fox’s Laura Ingraham advised him and Kevin Durant to “shut up and dribble.” In a separate interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols this week, James acknowledged that his voice “can speak volumes” because of his athletic accomplishments.
“I live in sports and without sports I wouldn’t be here, talking to you,” he said. “Sports – it stops race. Every race comes together for one common goal and that’s to win and to have fun and to have camaraderie and things like that. For someone or a body of parties to try to divide us by using our platform of sport – sport has given me everything that I’ve ever asked for, so I couldn’t let that happen.”
James traced his growing advocacy to the “Trayvon Martin situation,” mentioning the 17-year-old who was shot to death in Florida in 2012 when James was playing for the Miami Heat. Now, James has a son who is a teenager, and another on the cusp of his teens.
“What if my boy left home and never returned? That kind of hit a switch for me,” he told CNN. “From that point on, I knew that my voice and my platform had to be used for more than just sports.”