It’s not unusual for powerful men to get caught up in bluster and name calling, but when it involves the President of the United States and the best basketball player on the planet, it gets the media’s and the nation’s attention.
In his years in the NBA, LeBron James has turned terrible teams into championship contenders and decent teams into champions. He’s a great player and a powerful force for good in his community. LeBron was raised by a single mother in the poorest section of Akron, Ohio. Remembering the challenges he faced, he recently partnered with the Akron school district to open the I Promise School, a public school designed for “at risk” children, eventually providing classes from kindergarten to eighth grade.
When LeBron was interviewed by CNN's Don Lemon, he made some comments about his concern for America. With President Trump in office, LeBron noted that it's "tough" to be African American. Referring to the president’s tweet attacks over the NFL player protests, LeBron expressed dismay that the President was using sports "to kinda divide us, and that's something I can't relate to."
It’s not his first criticism of this president. James has repeatedly criticized him for his comments on the protesting players and for his response to the Charlottesville white supremacist rallies. According to a February Sports Illustrated article by Daniel Rapaport, James called President Trump a "bum” in a tweet after Trump rescinded Stephen Curry's invite to the White House to celebrate the Warriors' championship.
In a January interview with LeBron, Kevin Durant, and ESPN's Cari Champion, LeBron asserted, "The number one job in America... is someone who doesn't understand the people, and really don't give a f--- about the people.” "It's not even a surprise when he says something," LeBron went on to say, "It's like, laughable. It's laughable, and it's scary."
So when President Trump tweeted in response to LeBron’s comments to CNN’s Don Lemon, it was no surprise: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”
Out of the growing war of words came a bridge over troubled waters just hours after Trump’s tweet. Melania Trump’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said the first lady is “open to visiting” basketball star LeBron James’s new $8 million school in Ohio for low-income and at-risk students. Grisham said in an emailed statement, “It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation. Just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today.”
According to reports in the Akron Beacon Journal, the Ohio public school that LeBron James helped create, stated that it would welcome a visit from first lady Melania Trump. A spokesman for the Akron school district in northeast Ohio said as of now there aren't any plans for the first lady to visit James' I Promise School, but they would be willing to discuss the possibility.
Maybe sports professionals can look in the mirror and realize that their choice of the national anthem as the vehicle for their protest is not working; it’s alienating half of their fans. Not to be left out, maybe it’s time for President Trump to also look in the mirror and realize that attacking and demeaning others may get you headlines and please some, but it’s not presidential. He is not just the president for those who support him. Once elected, he became the president for all of us. As a president, one can strongly disagree without being quite so disrespectful.
LeBron and President Trump, do our country a favor and embrace the bridge that Melania has suggested. Let the better angels of your natures take one small step toward bridging our divide by meeting at the I Promise School and sharing a common commitment to let that promise spread.