Historically, telling LeBron James to stop speaking his mind has not had the desired effect.
The football iconoclast and former LA Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the last to question the openness of the 36-year-old Lakers star and described his commitment to politics and other social issues as a « mistake ».
« This is the first mistake people make when they become famous and achieve a certain status, » Ibrahimovic said in an interview with Discovery Sport on Thursday. « Stay out of it. Just do what you do best because it doesn’t look good. »
James owns a media company called « Uninterrupted ». He funded a documentary on athletic activism called Shut Up and Dribble to remove a sentence from a conservative talk show host who once assaulted him. He doesn’t take it kindly or quietly when he is told what to say – or not.
When asked about Ibrahimovic’s comments following the Lakers 102-93 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, James leapt for it like it was a floating rag near the edge and quickly quoted things He’s talking about: Social Inequality. Racism. Oppression of the voters.
« At the end of the day, » he said. « I would never shut up about things that are wrong. »
James is at the forefront of several major movements: Over the summer, he helped found More Than A Vote, which seeks to roll back the repression of voters in predominantly black communities. He was a key negotiator with NBA owners in August when the Milwaukee Bucks caused a hiatus, and he was instrumental in getting the owners to open their arenas as polling stations for the November presidential election. James has spoken out against the use of lethal force by law enforcement against black people and against gun violence in general.
The third leading scorer in NBA history opened the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, which now serves 450 students specially selected for enrollment for falling behind. James pointed out that these children grow up under the same difficult circumstances he knew as a child of a struggling single mother: “I am their voice and use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that is going on. not just in my community, but in this country and around the world. »
James also implied that Ibrahimovic was hypocritical, citing a case from 2018 when the AC Milan striker said he had not received recognition due to his « undisguised racism » due to his non-traditional Swedish surname, which he earned from his home in Sweden. Ibrahimovic is the Swedish born son of a Bosnian father and a Croatian mother.
« I’m the wrong guy, » grinned James, « because I’m doing my homework. »
James (36) and Ibrahimovic (39) overlapped in Los Angeles from summer 2018 to November 2019 for about 16 months when Ibrahimovic left the galaxy to return to Europe.
Taking inspiration from athletes like Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown, James pioneered a kind of renaissance in athletic activism that he’s proud of and that has spread to another generation, including Boston Celtics striker Jaylen Brown, and Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback.
He drew special attention to Renee Montgomery, who became the first former WNBA player to become a team owner on Friday when her group bought the Atlanta franchise from former Senator Kelly Loeffler. Montgomery and other athletes around the dream had publicly protested Loeffler’s possession after she protested the league’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice initiatives, and the league pressured her to do her part on the team to sell.
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« We have a lot of people who speak from the heart and don’t believe that at some point they had a voice, or now they come in and see that they can have a voice and that their voice really matters, » said James . « That makes me proud. »
Ibrahimovic suggested that he stick with football himself because he is best at it, and people like James should stick to their respective disciplines too. James replied that athletes were told over and over to just be grateful for their physical gifts and not talk about serious social issues.
This is not the image James has created over the past eight years, and it is not the world of sports that he has helped shape.
« That is no longer the case, » he said. « As long as I’m there, it won’t be like that for a long time. »
« I have 300 children in my school who need a voice and I am their voice … I am the wrong person, I am doing my homework. » @KingJames weighs on recent comments from soccer superstar @Ibra_official that people should « do what they can » and « stay out of politics ». pic.twitter.com/Scfp6HhnP2
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