It’s not often that the dominant voice and face of a professional sports league openly dismisses the opinion of the nation’s president, and adds that his entire league doesn’t care whether he follows them or not. But that happened last Wednesday when Lebron James responded to Donald Trump’s continuing litany about how players who knelt during the national anthem were disrespecting the flag, and he would not be watching any more NBA games if they did.
“I really don’t think the basketball community is sad about losing his viewership,” James told Yahoo Sports. “That’s all I got to say. I already know where this could go, where it could lead to tomorrow for me. I’m not going to get into it, but I think our game is in a beautiful position and we have fans all over the world. Our fans not only love the way we play the game, we try to give it back to them with our commitment to the game, but also respect, what else we try to bring to the game in acknowledging what’s right and what’s wrong. I hope everyone, no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter the size, will see what leadership we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner. It’s a big moment for us as Americans.
“The game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball, we could care less.”
James wasn’t the only NBA voice to publicly express their disdain for Trump’s statement. Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers did the same thing in comments to the Los Angeles Times. “Well, we lost one guy,” Rivers said. “That’s my answer. I mean, so what? Like really, I don’t even care. We know that justice is on our side, right? This hat that I’m wearing is what our president is trying to get us to not do, which I think is just disgraceful.” Rivers was hearing a hat that read “Vote.”
Of course it hasn’t just been the NBA whose players have knelt during the anthem. MLB, the WNBA, MLS, the NWSK, even some NHL members have done the same thing, and it’s widely expected that the same thing will happen if and when the NFL season begins. But the NBA players are also wearing emblems, symbols and statements on the backs of their jerseys, with everything from Black Lives Matter to just one or two words like justice or equality. In addition, James didn’t stop at dismissing Trump’s statements in regards to the league. He also added his voice to those of many others deeply disgusted and angered over the latest incident from Aurora, Colorado where police officers wrongly detained four Black girls at gunpoint after incorrectly claiming that their mother was driving a stolen car. It turned out that they owned the car, and the Aurora police chief offered a public apology,
“Hurtful and disgraceful to see a family face down on the pavement, for, once again, I believe, being racially profiled,” James said.”We just want better as a Black community, we’re not asking for a lot for the s— we went through the last 400 years. The fact that we’re just asking for equality is the low tier of what we deserve, to be completely honest.”
At this point, not being watched or followed by Donald Trump is a great PR benefit to the NBA.