Of all the black athletes President Trump has slandered and scapegoated, he has never come after LeBron James. Not that I want him to, but I have to wonder why. The man who has insulted Colin Kaepernick for his civil rights protests and Stephen Curry for refusing to celebrate a championship with him at the White House has still never targeted the most visible and well-known male athlete in American sports. There have been no attacks despite the NBA superstar’s uncompromising opposition to Trumpism, from endorsing Hillary Clinton to speaking out about racial injustice. James even called Trump a “bum” on Twitter last year when defending Curry, and Trump never responded.
We’ll see if that changes. On Monday, James opened the I PROMISE School, a public, non-charter school in his native Akron, Ohio. During an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon about the project, James spoke about how academics and athletics fuel a student’s development. He also referred to the president, saying, “He’s used sport to divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to, because I know that sport was the first time I was ever around someone white. You know? And I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got an opportunity to learn about me, and we became good friends. And I said, ‘Oh, wow — this is all because of sports.’ It has never been something to divide people. It has always been something to bring people together.”
James explained his “bum” tweet, defended Kaepernick and lamented the conversation he had to have with his boys when someone painted the word “nigger” on a gate outside his Brentwood home. “It’s always been there,” James said of racism in America, “but I think that the president in charge now has given people … they don’t care now, they throw it in your face now.” Lemon asked James what he would say to Trump if he were sitting across from him. James’ reply was short, and came with a subtle smile. “I would never sit across from him.”
And why should he? James and Trump are both wealthy men, but one is using his stage and influence to open a public school in an underserved community, while the other had to pay a $25 million settlement for starting a fake university. James is almost universally popular — yes, even in my native Cleveland, which he just left — while Trump has an approval rating that struggles to get above 40 percent.
Donald Trump isn’t fit to speak the name “LeBron James,” and it is telling that even he realizes it.
Here is the full speech that James gave at the school’s opening ceremony: