No, LeBron James is not backing down from his criticism of President Trump, preferring not to utter his name during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ media day.
“The people run this country,” he said, “not one individual and damn sure not him.”
That echoes a tweet he published Saturday morning, one that has been liked nearly 1.5 million times and retweeted nearly 653,000 times. You know, the one in which he called the president “U bum” for pulling a White House invitation for Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
James saw the protests across the country at NFL games and was amazed.
“I salute the NFL, the players, the coaches, the owners and the fans … it was unbelievable. There was solidarity. There was no divide, no divide even from that guy that continues to try to divide us as people,” he told reporters (transcription via SI.com). “Like I said on one of my social media platforms a couple days ago, the thing that kind of frustrated me and pissed me off a little bit, he used the sports platform to try to divide us.
“Sport and sports is so amazing, what sports can do for everyone, no matter the shape or size or race or ethnicity or religion or whatever. People finds teams, people find players, people find colors because of sport. And they just gravitate toward that, and it just makes them so happy. And it brings people together like none other. We’re not — I’m not — going to let, while I have this platform, to let one individual, no matter the power, no matter the impact that he should have or she should have, ever use sports as a platform to divide us.
“And then you go to the other side and you don’t talk about sports, and they try to divide us from that side as well, and the one thing that I can say and just think about is how can we personally, throughout everything that that guy is doing, no matter if you voted for him or not. You may have made a mistake, and that’s okay. If you voted for him, it’s okay … Can we sit up here and say that I’m trying to make a difference, and can we sit up here and say I can look at myself in the mirror and say I want the best for the American people, no matter the skin color, no matter the race, no matter how tall or athletic you are, whatever the case may be. Can we sit up here and say we are trying to make a difference?
“Because we know this is the greatest country in the world. This is the land of the free, but we still have problems just like everybody else.”
James, who said he had no regrets about his tweet, couldn’t say whether there would be similar protests by NBA players when the season starts next month and promised to keep speaking out.
“… I will lend my voice, I will lend passion, I will lend my money, I will lend my resources to my youth and my inner city and outside my inner city to let these kids know that there is hope, there is greater walks of life, and not one individual, no matter if it’s the president of the United States or if it’s someone in your household, can stop your dreams from becoming a reality,” James said.
James was one of several NBA stars to speak out against Trump on Monday, as 22 of the league’s 30 teams held media days.
In D.C., Wizards guard Bradley Beal called Trump a “clown.”
“There’s a lot of issues going on in the world, like Puerto Rico doesn’t have water and power and they’re still part of the U.S., but you’re worried about guys kneeling during the national anthem,” Beal said.
Wizards guard John Wall echoed Beal’s comments about Trump.
“I don’t like anything he’s been saying,” Wall said. “I don’t respect him, I feel like you can’t control what people want to do, and we have bigger issues in this world that you need to be focusing on instead of focusing on all these people taking a knee. It means something more important, they’re doing it for a reason, and you can’t do nothing but respect their decision. But you’re coming out and saying what people are and what they do, you’re not being respectful, you’re not being mindful … I don’t respect him.”
Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich decried the recent comments from legendary former NASCAR driver Richard Petty, who said “anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country.” Popovich, who has been highly critical of Trump since he was elected, described the United States as “an embarrassment in the world” and suggested that Americans have a choice to make.
“We can continue to bounce our heads off the wall with [Trump’s] conduct, or we can decide that the institutions of our country are more important, that people are more important, that the decent American that we all thought we had and want is more important and get down to business at the grass roots level and do what we have to do,” he said.
Popovich said Trump’s decision to rescind the Warriors’ invitation was “disgusting,” but also “comical” because “they weren’t going anyway,” and he also spoke at length about white privilege.
“Obviously, race is the elephant in the room, and we all understand that, but unless it is talked about, constantly, it’s not going to get better if people get bored,” he said. “‘Oh, is it that again? They’re pulling the race card again. Why do we have to talk about that?’ Well, because it’s uncomfortable, and there has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change. Whether it’s the LGBT movement, women’s suffrage, race, it doesn’t matter. People have to be made to feel uncomfortable, and especially white people because we’re comfortable. We still have no clue of what being born white means. If you read some of the recent literature, you’ll realize there really is no such thing as whiteness, but we kind of made that up. That’s not my original thought, but it’s true.
“It’s hard to sit down and decide that, yes, it’s like you’re at the 50-meter mark in a 100-meter dash. You’ve got that kind of a lead, yes, because you were born white. You have advantages that are systemically, culturally, psychologically there. And they’ve been built up and cemented for hundreds of years. But many people can’t look at it, because it’s too difficult. It can’t be something that is on their plate on a daily basis. People want to hold their position, people want the status quo, people don’t want to give that up. And until it’s given up, it’s not going to be fixed.”
Memphis Grizzlies Coach David Fizdale said he hadn’t discussed Trump’s latest comments with his team, but he was impressed with the show of solidarity he saw among NFL players on Sunday. Fizdale also added that if his players decided to take a knee during the national anthem, he would join them.
“So many comments are made so often now that it’s like, you can’t meet with your team every single time that he decides to make outlandish statements like that,” Fizdale said. “The great part about it is that what you saw was a community come together against what he said. That brought me great pride, whether they stood for the national anthem and locked arms, whether they had a hand on a brother or whether they were kneeling, I just thought it showed real togetherness, and that’s what we’ve got to continue to do when so many things right now are trying to divide us.”
On Sunday, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan issued a statement in response to a question from the Charlotte Observer about Trump rescinding the Warriors’ invitation to the White House.
“One of the fundamental rights this country is founded on was freedom of speech, and we have a long tradition of nonviolent, peaceful protest,” Jordan wrote. “Those who exercise the right to peacefully express themselves should not be demonized or ostracized. At a time of increasing divisiveness and hate in this country, we should be looking for ways to work together and support each other and not create more division. I support Commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA, its players and all those who wish to exercise their right to free speech.”