Did LeBron James go too far in criticism of Trump, voters?

 In Sports
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – LeBron James helped move the conversation forward Monday after the latest collision of sports and politics over the weekend.

But the Cleveland Cavaliers’ star might have dragged it backward, too, in suggesting that people who voted for President Trump “made a mistake” or were “uneducated” in casting their ballots.

James, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ star as well as the NBA’s top performer and perhaps its most polarizing figure, was in a good mood, engaged and willing to entertain questions about anything, from anyone, in the most notable exchange at the Cavs’ media day.

That’s essentially what he got, too. James was savvy enough at the start of what became a 40-minute Q&A session to request that reporters clump their questions together by topic – and there were a good half dozen meaty ones hanging over him and his team after a tumultuous offseason – rather than skip randomly back and forth.

The Trump topic in particular ate up nearly half of his time on the platform, during which James shined a light and sharpened focus on an unwieldy issue that largely has been defined by and debated according to kneeling vs. standing, asserting one’s right to protest vs. respecting America and its flag, and most recently pushing back against or knuckling under to President Trump.

James was asked if he expected the NFL’s controversy over players’ sideline protests to draw attention to what they feel is racial discrimination in law enforcement, up to and including brutality involving lethal force, to trickle down to the NBA when the league’s 2017-18 regular season begins Oct. 17.

The four-time NBA MVP and three-time champion acknowledged it might. Then he said: “My voice is more important than my knee.”

Right there, James nudged the whole issue a bit.

“What I say, I think it should hit home for a lot of people that know where I stand,” he said. “I don’t believe I should have to get on my knee for me to even further what I’m talking about.”

James had waded back into the fray over the weekend. He criticized Trump via social media after the President withdrew an invitation to the White House to the 2017 NBA champion Golden State Warriors, singling out Stephen Curry for “hesitating.” He began a Tweet — since “liked” nearly 1.5 million times, making it one of the most popular posts in the platform’s history — by addressing Trump as “U bum.”

“I didn’t name-call,” James said. “‘Bum.’ Me and my friends call each other that all the time.”

The Cavs star hasn’t been shy in sharing his feelings about Trump, driven in no small part by the Commander-in-Chief’s pettiness on social media and penchant for opining and criticizing on matters well short of the national interest.

“He doesn’t understand the power that he has, for being the leader of this beautiful country,” James said. “He doesn’t understand how many kids, no matter the race, look up to the President of the United States for guidance, for leadership, for words of encouragement. He doesn’t understand that.

“That’s what makes me more sick than anything. That we have someone – this is the No. 1 position in the world, you guys agree? – and 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 at ease in saying ‘It is OK for me to walk down the street and not be judged because the color of my skin or because of my race.’ … And he doesn’t even care.”

James at one point eloquently made a case for keeping politics out of sports.

“Sports is so amazing, what sports can do for everyone,” he said. “No matter the shape or size or race or ethnicity or religion or whatever. People find teams, people find players, people find colors because of sports – they just gravitate towards that and it just makes ‘em so happy. And it brings people together like none other.”

“We’re not gonna let … one individual no matter the power, no matter the impact that he should have or she should have, ever use sports as a platform to divide us.”

Minutes later, though, James felt obliged to explain that kneeling during the national anthem is “not about disrespect of the flag and our military and everybody who has made this world free. It is about equality and people having the option, the freedom, to speak about things that they feel that’s not just.”

All of which – misimpressions or not – came about because sports got used for politics. 

James said he would lend his voice, his passion, his money and his resources to causes, particularly involving young people. His foundation launched a school in his hometown of Akron for at-risk students, helping 1,300 students at a cost of nearly $45 million, James said Monday.

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