For the second straight year, LeBron James used his foundation’s annual “We Are Family Reunion” event as a platform to promote social change, this time issuing a message of love in response to the hateful “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and President Donald Trump’s comments about it.
Speaking to several thousand students and family members involved in his LeBron James Family Foundation, which recently extended its pledge to provide financial and educational support for “at-risk” students in Akron, Ohio, through college, the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar dismissed Trump as “the so-called president” and pledged his support for “the innocent people in Charlottesville.”
The following is the conclusion of his speech, via ESPN:
“I know there’s a lot of tragic things happening in Charlottesville. I just want to speak on it right now. I have this platform and I’m somebody that has a voice of command, and the only way for us to be able to get better as a society and us to get better as people is love.
“And that’s the only way we’re going to be able to conquer something at the end of the day. It’s not about the guy that’s the so-called president of the United States, or whatever the case. It’s not about a teacher that you don’t feel like cares about what’s going on with you every day. It’s not about people that you just don’t feel like want to give the best energy and effort to you. It’s about us. It’s about us looking in the mirror. Kids all the way up to the adults. It’s about all of us looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What can we do better to help change?’ And if we can all do that and give 110 percent … then that’s all you can ask for.
“So, shoutout to the innocent people in Charlottesville and shoutout to everybody across the world that just want to be great and just want to love. Thank you, and I love you all.”
Earlier on Tuesday, James tweeted in response to the president’s unhinged news conference — in which he equated the white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched on Charlottesville over the weekend bearing Tiki torches and chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” with those who rallied against them, including Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was struck and killed by an alleged far-right extremist who drove his car into a crowd of innocent people on Saturday.
Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump just made it fashionable again! Statues has nothing to do with us now!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 15, 2017
Trump also suggested some involved in the “Unite the Right” rally were “very fine people” who were “there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.” Lee, of course, was the general in command of the Confederate States Army in defense of states’ rights to slavery during the Civil War, before surrendering in 1865 and later arguing “to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”
Trump’s comments aligned with a statement he made on Saturday following a violent clash between the alt-right and those who opposed them that left dead a woman whose final message on Facebook was, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” The president described the events soon afterward as an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides.”
Following that address, James took to Twitter to point out the juxtaposition of the president’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” with a massive white supremacist rally on U.S. soil:
It's sad what's going on in Charlottesville. Is this the direction our country is heading? Make America Great Again huh?! He said that♂️
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 12, 2017
Our youth deserves better!! Flat out
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 12, 2017
In between James’ tweets in defiance of Trump, as criticism mounted against the president’s “many sides” statement in the immediate aftermath of the events in Charlottesville, Trump said on Monday, “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” before once again equating the alt-right with those who rallied against them on Tuesday.
James’ remarks on Charlottesville on Tuesday marked the second straight summer he addressed the crowd at his foundation’s annual charity event about social issues. Last year, a month after opening the ESPYs alongside Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade with a call for political action in the wake of a string of race-related shootings, James told his supporters, “I believe in order for us to ultimately be as great as we can be as a nation that all of us have to go back into our communities and lend our hand. It starts brick by brick. It starts person by person. Family by family. Kid by kid.”
James publicly supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential election. He has also been outspoken against Trump on multiple occasions since the president took office, responding to the White House’s attempts to issue a travel ban against people from seven majority-Muslim countries by telling the Hollywood Reporter in February, “I am not in favor of this policy or any policy that divides and excludes people. I stand with the many, many Americans who believe this does not represent what the United States is all about. And we should continue to speak out about it.”
In May, someone allegedly spray-painted a racial slur on the gate of James’ Los Angeles home. In response, James opened his media availability before the NBA Finals by saying, “Racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America, and hate in America — especially for African-Americans — is living every day. And even though that it’s concealed most of the time, people hide their faces and will say things about you and when they see you they’ll smile in your face, it’s alive every single day.”
The night before James’ call to action on Tuesday, Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker addressed an anti-racism rally in Salt Lake City, Utah, promoting a similar message of love in response to hate.
The conclusion of his speech, via The Salt Lake Tribune:
“I would be doing a disservice for my people if I didn’t come here today. So I’m here to speak for diversity. I’m diverse. It’s in my DNA. I love my culture. I love you.
“And hopefully I can get a few more professional athletes to do the same. …
“I want to set the record straight: we all came here to build, not to destroy. We came out here because we don’t hate them, we just don’t like them. But they hate us.”
More NBA players responded to the violence in Charlottesville on social media over the weekend:
Your silence normalizes nazis.
Doesn't it also makes you one ??#Charlottesville
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) August 12, 2017
#Charlottesville makes me sick…what world are we living in rn?!?
— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) August 12, 2017
Sad but not surprised by what's happening in VA. Painful reminder that we need to stay woke & continue organizing against racism & hatred✊
— Harrison Barnes (@hbarnes) August 12, 2017
Meanwhile, multiple ex-NBA players expressed disappointment in Trump’s response to the racism spewed in Virginia, including Stephen Jackson, who told USA Today at Sunday’s BIG3 regular-season finale in Los Angeles, “At the end of the day, if you’re not against racism, you’re racist. Point blank.”
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