On the same day he announced the opening of his I Promise School, LeBron James took on President Donald Trump.
The newly minted Laker told Don Lemon in an interview on CNN Monday night that the president is trying to divide people, and he’s using sports as a main conduit.
“We are in a position in America where this race thing has taken over,” James said. “One, because I believe our president is trying to divide us. He’s kind of used sport to divide us, and that’s something I can’t relate to.”
James said that playing sports taught him valuable lessons about diversity.
“I know that sports was the first time I was around someone white, and I got the opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got the opportunity to learn about me,” James said.
At one point during the interview, Lemon asked James what he would say to President Trump if the Commander-in-Chief were sitting there in front of him.
“I would never sit across from him,” James said with a smile. “I’d sit across from Barack though.”
While President Trump has not taken on the NBA yet, he has made numerous derogatory comments about NFL players who have protested police brutality in America by kneeling during the national anthem, calling them “sons of bitches” who should not be allowed to play.
Most recently, in the midst of his debacle performance with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, President Trump tweeted, in part: “Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!”
James spoke with CNN about Colin Kaepernick, who has been blackballed from the NFL for kneeling during the anthem, and Steph Curry’s refusal to visit the White House after the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship, beating his Cleveland Cavaliers.
Moment he started to notice things change
NBA players in the past, like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, have protested during the national anthem, but James and other current stars have not. When he was with the Miami Heat, James and his teammates did post a photo wearing hoodies, heads bowed, in response to Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012.
On Monday, James cited Martin’s death as the moment he started to notice things change.
“It starts with the Trayvon Martin situation, having kids of my own, boys of my own, it hit home,” James said. “That kinda hit a switch for me. From that point on I knew my voice and my platform had to be used for more than just sports.”
James has certainly lived up to that expectation, on Monday opening the ‘I Promise School’ in his hometown of Akron to serve at-risk third and fourth graders.