Superstar basketball player LeBron James is known for ruling the court, but he’s also become increasingly outspoken on the topics of race and politics in recent years.
In a new interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, James spoke about fulfilling his promise to open a school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and what made him lend his voice and his platform to the discussion about racism in America.
For the 33-year-old husband and father, the change occurred after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed while walking home from the store in Florida back in 2012.
“It starts with the Trayvon Martin situation,” James explained. “The reason it starts with that is because, having boys of my own, it hit home for me to see and learn the story and to think that if my boy left home and he never returned. That kind of hit a switch for me.”
“From that point on, I knew that my voice and my platform had to be used for more than just sports,” he added.
Since Donald Trump was elected, the reality star turned U.S. President has taken aim at Black athletes over a host of issues, from kneeling during the National Anthem to refusing to visit the White House after winning a championship. When Trump slammed Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry for choosing not to celebrate their NBA title at the White House, James came to his colleague’s defense on social media and called Trump a “bum.”
His plainspoken defense of Curry earned James harsh critiques from the Right, and Fox News host Laura Ingraham told him to “shut up and dribble.”
Thankfully, James didn’t take her advice and he’s continued to be an outspoken critic of the president, particularly because of Trump’s attack on athletes.
“He’s kinda used sports to kinda divide us,” James said. “Sports has never been something that divides people. It’s always been something that brings [people] together.”
The NBA star also said Trump has given people permission to be more vocal about their hatred toward others.
“The president in charge now has given people…..they don’t care now ― they throw it in your face now,” he said. Last year, James’ Los Angeles home was vandalized with the n-word, and the star said it was a reminder that “no matter how big you can become, now matter how successful you are, no matter what you do in the community, no matter what you do in your profession, being an African American in America is always tough, and they’re always gonna let you know that you are the n-word, no matter who you are.”
Before the interview ended, Lemon asked James what he would say to Trump if they were sitting across from each other. While many would have probably trotted out a politically correct answer about finding common ground, James kept it all the way real.
“I would never sit across from him,” James said with a smile. “I’ll sit across from Barack [Obama], though.”