Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James spoke out against the president during an interview Monday with CNN’s Don Lemon.
“You know, we are in a position right now in America where this race thing [has] taken over. I believe our president is kinda trying to divide us. He is — I don’t want to say kinda. He’s dividing us,” James said in the interview, as reported by People.
LeBron James (@KingJames) says Trump's trying to use sport to divide people, but he believes it brings people together. He sits down with @donlemon at the opening of his new elementary school for at-risk children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. Watch 10pET https://t.co/koTK4RarqE pic.twitter.com/CQYsTz2Fzl— CNN (@CNN) July 30, 2018
The basketball star is referring to Trump’s comments about the national anthem protests and his threatening to take away tax breaks for the NFL.
The protests began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the singing of the national anthem. The controversial act was a protest against the racial tension that exists in the country.
At the time, Kaepernick spoke to NFL media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” according to People.
As other players have followed in Kaepernick’s footsteps, Trump has made a series of comments in rallies and on Twitter, condemning the players who do not stand for the national anthem.
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
...our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
In the interview on Monday, James emphasized that sports should unite and not divide people. He spoke about his experience as an athlete and how being involved in sports helped him gain an understanding of people from diverse backgrounds.
“Sports [was] the first time I ever was around someone white. 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. It was always about sport,” he told Lemon.
James spoke further about race and politics in the interview, explaining his belief that racial tensions in the U.S. have increased since Trump came into office. He acknowledged that racism has been something African-Americans have always had to deal with but believes that it has escalated because Trump’s supporters “now don’t care.”
The 33-year-old basketball player has been outspoken in the past about his opinions and criticisms of Trump. He referred to the president as a “bum” after turning down an invitation to the 2017 NBA champion Golden State Warriors at the White House.
He made another critical comment about Trump in a tweet last year.
Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump just made it fashionable again! Statues has nothing to do with us now!— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 15, 2017
The interview followed an emotional day for James as he opened his I Promise School in Ohio — a learning center for disadvantaged children. Education and athletics are high priorities for the children at the school as they deal with the current racial climate in the U.S.
In the interview, he emphasized, “…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.”