On the eve of their last regular-season meeting in mid-January, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, Golden State Warriors counterpart Kevin Durant and “SportsCenter” anchor Cari Champion drove around Akron, Ohio, discussing everything from the NBA All-Star Game to parenting advice.
Midway through what was a fascinating conversation from start to finish, packaged into a 16-minute video for LeBron’s Uninterrupted platform, the topic turned to race in America and President Donald Trump. Considering Durant said in August, “I don’t respect who’s in office right now,” and LeBron called Trump a “bum” a month later, the segment went from must-listen to stop-everything-right-now:
From the 5:16 mark:
James: “The climate is hot. The No. 1 job in America, the appointed person is someone who doesn’t understand the people and really don’t give a f*** about the people. When I was growing up, there were three jobs that you looked to for inspiration or you felt like these were the people that could give me life: It was the President of the United States, it was whoever was the best in sports, and then it was like the greatest musician at the time. You never thought you could be them, but you can grab inspiration from them. If there was a neighborhood African-American cop, and he was cool as hell coming around, I felt like I could be him. I never felt like I could be the President of the United States, but I grabbed inspiration from that. At this time right now, with the President of the United States, it’s a bad time, and while we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people who watch us, that listen to us, that this is not the way.”
Durant: “When we’re talking about leadership and what’s going on in our country, it’s all about leadership, and I learned that playing basketball. I learned a lot of life skills from playing basketball. You need to empower people, you need to encourage people, and that’s what builds a great team. And I feel like our team as a country is not run by a great coach.”
James: “It’s not even a surprise when he says something. It’s laughable.”
Champion: “It’s laughable, but it’s also scary, because I shouldn’t be numb to your racist comments.”
Durant was among the Warriors who opposed going to the White House, even before Trump rescinded his invitation. He explained that decision by blaming the president for “driving” the divisiveness in the country that led to a violent clash between white nationalists and protestors in Charlottesville, Va.
Likewise, James blasted Trump for fanning the flames of racial tension with his “both sides” rhetoric, called the president a “bum” for disinviting the Warriors and then spent a large chunk of his media day interview in September criticizing the president for his apathy about the country’s racial issues.
Now, before anyone goes on a rant about “What do athletes know about politics?” or “How bad could it be for a couple millionaires?” or any of the other ridiculous responses that arose every time they made any of those comments, LeBron has a message for you, too, from his conversation with Durant:
“I’m a black man with a bunch of money, and having a crib in Brentwood and having the word n***** spray-painted over my gate, that let’s you know I’m not too far removed. And I’ve still got a lot more work to do. No matter how much money or access or how high you become in life as an African-American man or female, they will always try to figure out a way to let you know that you’re still beneath them. It’s either one or two things at that point. You either cave in to that notion or you just chalk it up and say, ‘You know what? I’m going to paint over this goddamn gate, and I’m going to make it taller.”
James and Durant are two of the most recognizable black men in the world. That they stand united on this platform is no small declaration, because while neither is the President of the United States, they both still earned one of those three inspirational jobs LeBron talked about: They’re the best in sports.
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