WASHINGTON, United States, Aug 6 – Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James hit back at Donald Trump on Wednesday after the US President branded NBA stars who kneel during the national anthem “disgraceful.”
The two-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player rebuked Trump’s comments in the aftermath of a 105-86 loss to Oklahoma City in the Orlando bubble as the league restarts following a four-month COVID-19 shutdown.
James smiled when asked about Trump’s comments that he did more for the black community than any president except maybe Abraham Lincoln, who freed slaves in the 19th Century.
“Trying to make me laugh right now? I appreciate that,” James said.
Trump told Fox News he turns away when he sees players kneel during the anthem, although players have said the move is to protest police brutality and social injustice, and is not an insult to the flag, military or nation.
“I think it’s disgraceful,” Trump said. “We work with (the NBA). We work very hard trying to get them open. I was pushing them to get open. And then I see everyone kneeling during the anthem. It’s not acceptable to me.
“When I see them kneeling, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and disrespecting our national anthem, what I do, personally, is turn off the game.”
Trump need not hurry to turn on the NBA again, James said.
“I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership, him viewing the game,” James said.
– ‘We could care less’ –
“The game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us who love the game of basketball and we could care less.”
James noted global support and respect for the NBA.
“Our game is in a beautiful position and we’ve got fans all over the world,” James said. “Our fans love and respect what we try to bring to the game, what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Trump took aim at NBA ratings and tossed in a dig at those who have kneeled during anthems in Major League Baseball, although both have enjoyed above-average viewership since making their returns in recent weeks after long COVID-19 breaks.
“The ratings for the basketball are way down, if you know. And I hear some others are way down, including baseball. Because all of the sudden, now baseball’s is in the act,” Trump said.
“We have to stand up for our flag. We have to stand up for our country. We have to stand up for our anthem. And a lot of people agree with me.
“Hey, if I’m wrong, I’m going to lose an election. OK. And that’s OK with me. But I will always stand for our country and for our flag.”
James was looking forward to the US Presidential voting on November 3 also.
“November is right around the corner and it’s a big moment for us as Americans,” James said. “We talk about we want better, we want change, and we will have (that opportunity).”
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers spoke about Trump earlier, the election on his mind as he wore a cap that had “Vote” on the front.
“Well, we lost one guy,” Rivers said of the reduced NBA viewership.
“We know that justice is on our side. This hat that I’m wearing is what our President is trying to get us to not to, which I think is just as disgraceful.”