LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James says he will not stick to sports.
The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar reiterated his determination to speak out on social issues and the nation’s political climate Saturday during his media availability for the NBA All-Star Game.
“I will not just shut up and dribble,” James said. “I get to sit up here and talk about what’s really important.”
James spoke publicly after Fox News host Laura Ingraham criticized the three-time NBA champion for his recent comments about social issues. James previously responded with an Instagram post containing similar sentiments.
“We will definitely not shut up and dribble,” James said. “I will definitely not do that. I mean too much to society. I mean too much to the youth. I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don’t have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they’re in.”
James made the initial public comments in question during a recent video segment on Uninterrupted, a platform co-founded by James. He was joined by Kevin Durant, and both superstars were sharply critical of President Donald Trump and the nation’s racial climate.
James referenced Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Jackie Robinson as athletes who previously spoke up for equality and change with no concerns about the consequences or any rewards.
“We know it’s bigger than us,” James said. “It’s not about us. I’m going to continue to do what I have to do to play this game that I love to play, but this is bigger than me playing the game of basketball.”
James was backed at media day by several All-Stars including Stephen Curry, Paul George, Draymond Green and Durant. They all believe athletes have an important opportunity to advocate for positive social change.
“We’re a part of what’s going on this world, what’s going on in this society, just as much as anybody else,” said George, the Oklahoma City Thunder forward from nearby Palmdale, California. “We’re fathers. We’re sons. We’re brothers. We’ve got family to look after. We’re connected as deeply in this as anybody else is. For someone to go out and say, `Stick to dribbling a basketball,’ that’s pretty ignorant. That just goes to show you where we are as a country right now.”
Commissioner Adam Silver strongly supported James and other outspoken NBA players later Saturday, saying he was “incredibly proud” of James and Durant in particular.
Silver compared the current players’ outspoken passion to the stances taken by past greats including Russell, who is in attendance at All-Star weekend. Silver noted that Russell was the MVP of Los Angeles’ first All-Star Game in 1963, a year in which Russell also won a championship in Boston and stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“As commissioner of the NBA, this is a legacy of important work that I’ve inherited, that I continue to encourage,” Silver said. “These players are not just basketball players. They’re multi-dimensional. They care about their communities, and they care about what’s happening in their country. They then care enough to speak out, and sometimes at great risk to themselves, because it’s not lost on them that there are some people who will disagree with them.
“Social media is full of hate as well. … I’m really proud of them.”
Curry called the Fox News host’s comments and dismissive tone “aggressive and just out of line … but not surprising, because I’ve heard that plenty of times before.”
“That’s the tone that people (utilize to) try to put athletes and black athletes in a box, to say, `Basketball is the only thing that you can provide in this world,”‘ Curry said. “It’s really, obviously, very upsetting. I think the way that we handle the response is to highlight all the good that we’re doing … Every single NBA athlete here that plays this game, that’s not what we’re about. That’s not all that we contribute to this world.
“Guys are going out, putting resources and funds, and raising awareness in the community and trying to make the world a better place through what we do.”