Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James answers questions Monday during media day in Independence.
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INDEPENDENCE — LeBron James doesn’t plan on taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, but he said he fully supports the athletes who have or will do so.
“My voice, for me personally, is more important than my knee,” the Cavaliers superstar said Monday during the team’s annual media day. “What I say, I think it should hit home for a lot of people and (they) know where I stand. I don’t believe I have to get on my knee for me to even further what I’m talking about.”
Without breaking stride, James went on to praise former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the first athlete in recent times to kneel for the anthem in an attempt to draw attention to social and racial injustices in the United States.
“I don’t down anybody that’s doing it in the NFL,” James said. “I salute Colin Kaepernick for being as powerful as he was and being the one that he had to fall on the sword, unfortunately. I hate that. I wish I owned an NFL team right now. I’d sign him today.
“But,” he added, “I think my voice and what I do in my community and what I stand for, I don’t think I have to show you guys more by getting on a knee or doing something else or trying to create something else. But I think it’s powerful what all these athletes are doing.”
More than 200 NFL players took a knee during the national anthem Sunday, two days after President Donald Trump told an Alabama audience that league owners should fire the “son of a b----” who didn’t stand.
“I salute the NFL, the coaches, the players, the owners, the fans, everyone who had an association with the NFL (Sunday),” James said. “It was unbelievable. There was solidarity. There was no divide — even from that guy that continues to try to divide us as people.
“The thing that frustrates me a little bit is he now uses sports,” James added. “He uses sports to try to divide us. Sports is so amazing, what sports can do for everything, no matter the shape or size or race or ethnicity or whatever. People find teams, people find players, people find colors because of sports. They just gravitate toward that and it makes them so happy. And it brings (people) together like none other.
“We’re not going to let it, I’m not going to let it, while I have this platform, let one individual, no matter the power, no matter the impact that he should have or she should have, ever use sport as a platform to divide us.”
The three-time league champion said kneeling during the anthem could “trickle down” to the NBA “if no change” occurs before the Oct. 17 start of the regular season.
James added he would support any teammates or opposing players who elected to do so.
“It’s not about the disrespect of the flag and our military and everybody that has made this world free,” the 32-year-old said. “It is about equality and people having the option and the freedom to speak about things they feel are injustice.
“The people who are trying to divide us are the ones trying to say it is a disrespect to the military families and to the people that have served our country,” he added. “It is not about that. It is the furthest away from that.”
James publicly supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the November election against Trump and said he’s more convinced than ever that the current president was the wrong choice.
For that reason, he said he will continue to voice his opinion and follow it up with actions, such as committing more than $40 million to put children who have completed his “I Promise” program through the University of Akron.
“Can we sit up here and say, ‘I’m trying to make a difference?’” the four-time league MVP asked. “Can we sit up here and say, ‘I can look 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 or whatever the case may be?’ Can we sit up here and say we’re trying to make a difference?
“We know this is the greatest country in the world. Land of the free. But we still have problems just like everybody else and, when we have them, we have to figure out a way how we in this country (can solve them), not one individual. And damn sure not (Trump).”
James referred to Trump as “that guy” several times while talking to the media for more than 40 minutes Monday, but he took it a step further recently on Twitter, referring to the president as “a bum” for withdrawing the NBA champion Golden State Warriors’ invitation to visit the White House. Trump’s withdrawal came after two-time league MVP Stephen Curry said he would not attend.
“My first initial response is, ‘You bum,’” James said. “He doesn’t understand the power that he has being the leader of this beautiful country. He doesn’t understand how many kids, no matter the race, look up to the president of the United States for leadership, for words of encouragement. He doesn’t understand that.
“It’s the most powerful position in the world,” he added. “We are at a time where the most powerful position in the world has an opportunity to bring us closer together as a people and inspire the youth and put the youth on ease and say, ‘It is OK for me to walk down the street and not be judged by the color of my skin, because of my race.’ And ... he doesn’t even care.”
James was disgruntled Trump carried Ohio, where the small forward said not enough people were educated voters, but he vowed to stay committed to his home state.
“Even though this state voted for Trump, that doesn’t stop me inspiring the people of this state and inspiring the youth,” he said. “I would be even more at wrong if I started to down the people of Ohio. That makes zero sense.
“My job and my calling is much bigger than that guy. I don’t even like saying his name. While I have this platform, I will continue to inspire the state of Ohio not only by what I do on the floor, but also by putting 1,300 kids into school and spending almost $45 million.”
That, James said, won’t change, regardless of who is president.
“I will lend my voice, I will lend my passion, I will lend my money to my youth in my inner city and outside my inner city to let these kids know there is hope, there (are) greater walks of life, and not one individual, no matter if it’s the president of the United States or someone in your household, can stop your dreams from becoming a reality,” he said. “It’s that simple. Or maybe not that simple, if you can’t appreciate it.”
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