Cavs star James urges calm as Cleveland rocked by verdict


Los Angeles (AFP) - Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James hopes the team's playoff run can be a rallying point for a city divided by the acquittal of a white police officer in the shooting of an unarmed black couple.

The verdict, which triggered minor protests, comes amid widespread tensions in the United States over police treatment of blacks following the deaths of a number of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

Just a month ago, riots erupted in Baltimore over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody -- a case in which six officers have been charged.

"Violence is not the answer," James said when asked about the verdict after a Cavaliers practice in Cleveland on Saturday.

Cleveland patrolman Michael Brelo was one of 13 officers who opened fire on Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams during a police chase in 2012, thinking their car backfiring was a gunshot.

James did not comment specifically on the verdict, saying he didn't know enough about it.

But the player stressed that the focus should be on the families of the victims.

"For me, in any case, anything that goes on in our world, in our America, the only people that we should be worried about is the families (who) lost loved ones," he said.

"You can't get them back, you can never get them back and we should worry about the families and how they're doing and things of that nature."

And he expressed hope that the Cavaliers' push for a place in the NBA Finals -- they lead the Atlanta Hawks 2-0 in the Eastern Conference championship series -- could unite Cleveland.

"I think sports in general, no matter what city it is, something that's going through a city that's very dramatic, traumatizing or anything of that case, I think sports is one of the biggest healers in helping a city out," he said.

The Cavaliers host the Hawks on Sunday in game three of the best-of-seven series.

A Cavaliers spokesman said the team and the NBA are in touch with local law enforcement officials in case any protests turn violent, especially near the Cavs' Quicken Loans Arena.

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