In early October, LeBron James took the somewhat unusual step of officially endorsing his choice to be the next president: Hillary Clinton. On Sunday, just two days before the election, the Cavaliers forward took his stance a step further, introducing the Democratic nominee at a rally in Cleveland.
James was accompanied onstage by teammate J.R. Smith, as well as Smith’s daughter. “With my [charitable] foundation, giving kids the notion that someone cares about them, that what they dream about, that someone like myself and J.R. and President Hillary Clinton,” James said, pausing to let his “President” line sink in, “can make their dreams become a reality, is very important to me. And I believe that this woman right here can continue that.”
Polls have Clinton trailing Donald Trump in the traditional swing state of Ohio, and her campaign is hoping that James, an Akron native who just brought Cleveland its first major sports title in 52 years, can use his considerable popularity to help get out the vote for her, particularly among African Americans. On Friday, Clinton appeared onstage at a Cleveland concert featuring Jay Z and Beyoncé.
In his earlier endorsement, which was published in the Akron Beacon Journal, James wrote, “I support Hillary because she will build on the legacy of my good friend, President Barack Obama.” He added, “Only one person running truly understands the struggles of an Akron child born into poverty.”
James warmed up the crowd Sunday by saying with a chuckle, “First of all, thank you for the applause. I know you guys are excited to see her — I didn’t know you guys would be excited to see me, too.” He emphasized the importance of voting and praised Clinton as having “the brightest future for our world.”
Clinton had her own praise for James at the rally. “What he does off the court is to care for every child as though that child is his own,” she said.
Smith apparently did not address the crowd, but many online observers were struck by what he was wearing — a shirt. Going shirtless has become something of a signature move for the Cavs guard, who even doffed his top during a chilly Indians World Series game, but he looked positively demure Sunday, to the disappointment of some.
Perhaps Smith learned from the Indians’ loss to the Cubs that the shirtless look is not so much a good-luck charm as it is the proper way to celebrate a victory. In that case, James and other Clinton supporters can hope to see his bare, tattooed chest at her Inaugural Ball.