LeBron James says President Donald Trump is using sports to divide the country.
The NBA superstar opened up on Monday about how he believes that racial tension has become an even more prominent issue of late because of Trump and his actions.
James spoke at lengths about the President, race and politics in a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, which aired just hours after opening his new I Promise School in Akron, Ohio.
The 33-year-old was talking about how both athletics and education were high priorities for the young students at his new school when he mentioned the current climate in the US.
‘When you’re part of sports, it brings so much comradery and so much fun. We are in a position right now, in America more importantly, where this whole race thing has taken over,’ he said.
One, because I believe our president is trying to divide us… he is, he’s dividing us and what I have noticed over the last few months is that he’s kind of used sport to divide.
‘That’s something that I can’t relate to because I know that sport was the first time I was around someone who was white.’
James went on to say that sport gave him the opportunity to interact with people from different races and backgrounds when he was young. He joked about learning what a pantry was and how a white family he was close with ate dinner at 6.30pm – a time he considered as a youngster to be the afternoon.
‘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,’ he said.
‘Sport has never been something that divides people, it has always been something that brings people together.’
He said Trump is creating a wedge by using situations like NFL player Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem and ‘uninviting’ NBA star Steph Curry to the White House.
At times… more often than not, I believe he uses anything that’s popular to try and negate people from the positive things they could be doing,’ he said. ‘At the end of the day sport is why we all come together.’
When asked what he would say to Trump if he was sitting opposite him, James responded: ‘I would never sit across from him. I’d sit across from Barack though.’
He said he might consider running for office if someone said to him he was the only person and that Trump would win if he didn’t step up.
James also opened up about how Trayvon Martin’s 2012 murder – the shooting that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement – changed him.
‘It starts with the Trayvon Martin situation and the reason it starts with that, I believe, is having kids of my own, boys of my own, it hit home for me to see and to hear the story. To think if my boy left home and he never returned – that hit a switch for me,’ he said.
‘From that point on, I knew my voice and my platform had to be used for more than just sports.
‘I can’t sit back and not say nothing.’
While he acknowledged that racism has always been something African Americans have to deal with, he insinuated that it is even more heightened now under Trump’s presidency because his supporters now don’t care.
James was speaking about a particular example where the N-word had been sprayed onto the front gate of his LA mansion last year.
‘No matter how big you become, no matter how successful you are, not matter what you do in the community or what you do in your profession, being African American in America is always tough,’ he said.
‘They are always going to let you know that you are the N-word, no matter who you are.’
James has long been vocal about his opposition to Trump, including one tweet in August last year where he wrote: ‘Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump has just made it fashionable again! Statues has nothing to do with us now!’
He also slammed the President as a ‘bum’ when the NFL star defended his on court rival Steph Curry last year. Trump had rescinded Curry’s invitation to the White House to celebrate the Golden State Warriors’ championship.
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!’ James tweeted.
Earlier on Monday, the three-time NBA champion opened his I Promise School, a year-around learning center devoted to some of the city’s most challenged youngsters – ones just like him.
For James, who recalled missing 82 days of school as a fourth grader while he and his mom ‘looked for stability,’ the opening culminated years of planning by his family foundation.
This means everything,’ James told The Associated Press in an interview before the public event.
‘I think this is the greatest accomplishment for me because it’s not just me. A championship is for a team, that’s for an organization and a city. But these kids, this is for generation after generation after generation and it’s for these kids, so it means everything.’
It was an emotional day for James, who also made his first comments since signing the $154 million deal with the Lakers – a move still causing tremors across in the NBA.
James recalled beating the odds of his youth when life was a daily struggle for him and his mom. Nothing was easy as the pair constantly moved and it was only with the help of others than James found structure.
Now, he’s giving kids with the same problems a path.
‘There is no way I could have imagined this,’ he said.
‘I remember our foundation having a bike-a-thon, and I never thought a five-mile bike ride would turn into a school. This is something I’m at a loss of words for.’