The Los Angeles Lakers have knelt for the national anthem in all of their seeding games so far in the bubble, kneeling in protest of systemic racism in America, specifically racism associated with police brutality. These bubble games have actually marked the first time that NBA players have knelt during the national anthem as a form of protest, an action made famous by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick who started the protest around 2016. Although NBA players have never knelt during the anthem before, a large portion of players have participated in symbolic actions before protesting police brutality. Those instances include the “I Can’t Breathe” warm-up shirts worn by players years ago. That movement was spearheaded by the leaders in the NBA, specifically LeBron James, who continues to be one of the most polarizing social activists not only in NBA history but in sports history.
After the Lakers’ loss against the Thunder on Wednesday night, LeBron was asked about comments made by President Donald Trump. In an interview on the television show “Fox & Friends”, Trump said that NBA players kneeling during the national anthem were “disgraceful” and that he doesn’t watch NBA games anymore because of it. Melissa Rohlin of Sports Illustrated asked LeBron what he thought about Trump’s comments. LeBron had this to say:
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!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
Sorry, my mistake. That was LeBron’s tweet from 2017, when he called Trump a “bum” for commenting that Stephen Curry and the Warriors were not allowed in the White House after winning the NBA championship. Here are LeBron’s comments from Wednesday night (h/t to Christian Rivas and Silver Screen & Roll for the transcription):
“I really don’t think the basketball community is sad about losing his viewership. That’s all I’ve got to say. I don’t want to … I’m not going to get into it. Because I already know what this could lead to tomorrow for me. I’m going to get into it, but I think our game is in a beautiful position, and we have fans all over the world. Our fans not only love the way we play the game… but also respect what else we try to bring to the game and acknowledge it. What’s right and what’s wrong.
“And I hope, everyone, no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter the size, see what leadership that we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner, and it’s a big moment for us as Americans. If we continue to talk about what we want better, want to change, we have an opportunity to do that. But the game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball: we couldn’t care less.”
Asked by @melissarohlin about Donald Trump calling NBA kneeling protests “disgraceful,” LeBron James first asked if she was trying to make him laugh, then didn’t want to engage, but did say: “The game will go on without his eyes on it. … We could care less.” pic.twitter.com/ecD9JXx0fM
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) August 6, 2020
LeBron James brushes Trump’s comments off, putting attention on the nation’s election in November where many political seats will be decided, most importantly the President of the United States election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. LeBron continues to join the rest of the NBA in emphasizing the importance of this election. LeBron has put his words into action, creating the “More Than a Vote” organization to try and create more access to voting and to bring awareness to it in general.
LeBron’s comments will almost assuredly bring some backlash from Trump supporters, and it may even get attention from Donald Trump himself. Either way, you can tell LeBron doesn’t want to engage in childish arguments. He may even be ashamed of that tweet from 2017 where he stooped down to the President’s level.
At the end of the day, it’s extremely encouraging and inspiring to see LeBron use his insanely large platform to influence positive change to voting and the country in general.