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(ESPN) Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James addressed President Donald Trump’s comments on sports and protests on Monday, talking extensively about the issue and the NFL’s response but never using the president’s name.
“First of all, I salute the NFL, the coaches, the players, the owners, the fans. Everyone who had any association with the NFL was unbelievable,” James said. “There was no divide. Even from that guy that continues to try to divide us as people.
“The thing that frustrated me, pissed me off: He was using the sports platform to divide us. Sports is so amazing, what sports can do for everyone, no matter shape, size, race. It brings people together like no other. I’m not going to let one individual, no matter the power, the impact he should have, ever use sport as a platform to divide us.”
James expanded on the comments he made on social media over the weekend. On Saturday, after Trump tweeted that the Golden State Warriors were not welcome at the White House, James sent a tweet that called the president a “bum.”
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
It has been retweeted more than 650,000 times — more than any other tweet ever sent by James.
James said he did not regret the tweet and said that referring to someone as a bum was not what he would define as name-calling.
“If you voted for him, you may have made a mistake,” James said. “Can we sit up here and say I’m trying to make a difference? I want the best for the American people no matter the skin color, the race. We know this is the greatest country in the world. We still have problems, just like everybody else. The people run this country, not one individual, damn sure not him.
“As I have this platform, I will lend my voice, my passion, my money to let these kids know there is hope, greater walks of life. No one individual can stop your dreams from being a reality.”
James said he would continue to use his platform to inspire people.
“My calling is much bigger than this guy,” James said. “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 by putting 1,300 kids into school.”
Asked whether he would take a knee during the national anthem, James said, “My voice is more important than my knee. What I say, I think it should hit home for a lot of people. I don’t think I have to get on my knee to further my point.
“I support [Colin] Kaepernick for being as powerful as he was. Being the one, he had to fall on the sword, unfortunately. I wish I owned a NFL team. I’d sign him today.”
James said one good thing that came out of the weekend was the conversation.
Other coaches and players were asked about the protests on Monday.
“I think ultimately, we as the Celtics organization support our guys and their right to take a stand and protest peacefully and promote positive change,” Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We talk about trying to use, again, our platform to have positive discussion to talk about things like uniting. To talk all the time about, leaders unite and inspire people and misleaders divide.
“So ultimately, if we can be a team that uses that in a positive way, if we can be individuals that use that in a positive way, we can create a good message that unifies, you’re doing your small part with the platform you’re given.”
New Celtics guard Kyrie Irving was asked if his thought the situation was getting worse.
“The hope is progression. The hope is progression,” Irving said. “I think the beautiful thing is that people are starting to wake up.”
“I think athletes have a tremendous opportunity, or I think sports is highly influential,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said. “I think what’s going on in football, with having the freedom to express their First Amendment right, I think that should be something that should be considered and understood.
“I think it’s unconstitutional to … tell them they don’t have the right to speak on whatever they feel like their heart needs to be spoken on. That’s what my take on it is. I think basketball and athletes have a tremendous opportunity with our platform to do something about it.”
Charlotte Hornets All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, when asked about James’ support of Stephen Curry, said, “It’s a brotherhood. The NBA is a brotherhood. We’ve seen LeBron and Steph go at it in the Finals the last couple years, so it’s cool to see [James’ support].
“We’re a brotherhood, this whole league.”
“I think [the protests are] great because we’re finally talking about what’s important,” said New York Knicks center Joakim Noah. “Obviously I have my beliefs. I put in a lot of work in the neighborhoods trying to help at-risk youth. I have my opinions, but I respect this country a lot. But we have to look at everything that’s going on as a positive because we’re finally talking about issues that are usually swept under the rug. Because somebody takes a knee, we’re finally talking about what’s important.”
“I think the president brought a lot of this stuff on himself,” said Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, who is American but plays in Canada. “He brought it on himself. He brought it on us as a country. … I feel no player is trying to disrespect anybody, no flag or anything like that, but we seem to be the ones who get all the disrespect from our so-called leader.”
Knicks center Enes Kanter said that seeing the U.S. go through this tough time is “really breaking my heart.
“I just feel bad because when I look at America, when I was at a young age, it’s about freedom of religion, freedom of speech, now all of these amazing people are going through this tough time and it’s breaking my heart.
“I’m not from here, I’m from Turkey. But still going through this with these guys, I feel them because I’m going through the same things with my country too. It’s tough but I’m praying for you guys.”