LeBron James recently said neither he nor other NBA players will be shedding any tears over Donald Trump saying that he‘s stopped watching NBA games because players have been kneeling for the national anthem. The kneeling, which is to protest systemic racism and police brutality, began on July 30 after the league resumed play in Orlando following the shutdown in March because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump spoke about NBA players Wednesday, Aug. 5, on Fox News and called their protests “disgraceful.”
“We work with [the NBA],” said Trump. “We work very hard trying to get them open. I was pushing them to get open and then I see everyone kneeling during the anthem. It’s not acceptable to me.”
He continued. “When I see them kneeling, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and disrespecting our national anthem, what I do, personally, is turn off the game.”
Trump also claimed that the NBA’s ratings “are way down,” although The Hollywood Reporter recently reported that play resumed to numbers that were well above average compared to when the season was suspended, although ratings have dropped some since then.
Additionally, Trump said that he’s done more for Black people than any other president aside from maybe Abraham Lincoln. James was asked about that statement on Wednesday, after his Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-86 at the league’s central Florida bubble location in Orlando’s Disney World.
“Trying to make me laugh right now? I appreciate that,” James told reporters. “I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership.”
The Lakers star then said, “I think our game is in a beautiful position and we have fans all over the world and 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, and acknowledging what’s right and what’s wrong … 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 [couldn’t] care less.”
James closed his remarks about Trump by encouraging people to vote in November and called the next presidential election “a big moment for us as Americans.”
The NBA has shown strong support for the Black Lives Matter movement since George Floyd’s death in May.
Once the league resumed last month, NBA players have been wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, the words “Black Lives Matter” are now being displayed on the court, and many players are wearing social justice messages like “Justice” and “Education Reform” on the back of their jerseys.
For his part, James has been supporting the protests for racial justice on social media, and in June it was announced that he, along with other Black athletes and entertainers launched More Than A Vote.
The organization says on its website that it will work on “Combating systemic, racist voter suppression by educating, energizing, and protecting our community in 2020.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 5, the NBA Board of Governors said that it would be donating $300 million toward a newly formed foundation that will create “economic empowerment in Black communities.” The foundation will be run in partnership with the National Basketball Players Association.
All 30 NBA teams will give $1 million to the foundation every year over the next decade.
“The NBA Foundation will seek to increase access and support for high school, college-aged and career-ready Black men and women, and assist national and local organizations that provide skills training, mentorship, coaching and pipeline development in NBA markets and communities across the United States and Canada,” it says in a press release.