LeBron James arrived for work on Monday more comfortable and better prepared to discuss the division in the country as opposed to what caused the seismic rift between him and Kyrie Irving.
Like it or not, this is the sports world we now live in. You are judged by your actions — to kneel or not to kneel — and by your words. So choose them carefully.
As such, LeBron wasn’t sticking to sports for Media Day in Cleveland following a weekend unlike any in professional sports history. The NBA’s biggest name, raised by a single mother in a lower-income Akron neighborhood, willingly threw himself into a national debate when he referred to President Trump as “U bum” in a tweet after the President rescinded an invitation for the Golden State Warriors to visit the White House.
At the very least the President pulled off a rare feat. He managed to unite two sometimes bitter rivals, LeBron and Stephen Curry, who were born four years apart in the same Akron hospital. Curry, of course, grew up quite differently than LeBron. He was raised by two parents and his family lived well on father Dell’s NBA income.
LeBron James didn’t let Donald Trump’s divisive comments slide.
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
That the careers and lives of two sons of Akron have crossed paths three straight years in the NBA Finals is rather astonishing. It’s more noteworthy that we have two superstars from unique backgrounds using their power and platforms to address social issues and question the leader of the free world.
“I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals rather than others,” Curry, a two-time MVP said of Trump on Friday. “I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath the leader of a country to go that route. It’s not what leaders do.”
Both LeBron and Curry were responding to the President taking on the NFL at a rally in Alabama. President Trump called on NFL owners to punish players who refuse to stand during the national anthem. The president went so far as to call NFL players who protest “sons of b—hes.”
When Stephen Curry and the Warriors were uninvited from the White House, LeBron James defended them.
That type of name calling and divisive rhetoric isn’t appropriate. Certainly not for the President and not even for the basketball player who refers to himself as the King. Sure, let’s have a dialogue but LeBron would be wise to stay on point and above the fray. “U bum” doesn’t help.
“The thing that frustrated me, pissed me off: He was using the sports platform to divide us,” James said. “Sports is so amazing, what sports can do for everyone, no matter shape, size, race. It brings people together like no other. I’m not going to let one individual, no matter the power, the impact he should have, ever use sport as a platform to divide us.”
The one-time teenage prodigy turned husband, father and social activist has come a long way. A decade earlier, LeBron was criticized for declining to sign then-teammate Ira Newble’s letter condemning China for its role in the genocide in Darfur. LeBron claimed he didn’t have enough information to speak on the issue.
Players kneel during the national anthem
As he’s matured and educated himself, LeBron has the knowledge and confidence to deliver a well thought out message. In fact, LeBron and Curry, like every NBA player, are encouraged by the country’s most progressive sports league and commissioner to do just that.
Whether you agree or disagree with his opinion, LeBron has a right to express those views.
Will this hurt LeBron financially? Probably not. Did he wait until it was safe to do what many have been doing for months, offer a critical take on the president? Maybe. But LeBron, who campaigned for Hilary Clinton, is the face of a predominantly black league and should be commended for taking a stand.
Donald Trump tweeted that Stephen Curry, who didn’t want to visit the White House, was uninvited.
“If you voted for him, you may have made a mistake,” James said. “Can we sit up here and say I’m trying to make a difference? I want the best for the American people no matter the skin color, the race. We know this is the greatest country in the world. We still have problems, just like everybody else. The people run this country, not one individual, damn sure not him.
“As I have this platform, I will lend my voice, my passion, my money to let these kids know there is hope, greater walks of life. No one individual can stop your dreams from being a reality.”
That is a better message. And it is spoken by a man who has invested millions in his own community to provide college scholarships for disadvantage youth.
On Monday, the Knicks’ Joakim Noah spoke eloquently of helping at-risks kids and the easy access they have to guns that are destroying lower income neighborhoods. The Wizards’ Bradley Beal and San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich also weighed in with concerns over the president and the direction of the country. Media day was something to remember for a change.
Stick to sports? Not on this day.