LeBron James backed the NFL teams and players who protested the president over the weekend by kneeling during the national anthem.
“I salute the NFL, the coaches, the players, the owners, the fans. Everyone who had any association with the NFL was unbelievable,” the Cleveland Cavaliers star said at a press conference on Monday. “There was no divide. Even from that guy that continues to try to divide us as people,” he said, in a not-so-subtle reference to Donald Trump.
The NBA star went viral over the weekend when he took a shot at Trump on Twitter, calling the president a “bum” for rescinding Steph Curry’s invitation to the White House following the Golden State Warriors’ championship victory last June. “Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!” James wrote, aiming his tweet at Trump.
“The thing that frustrated me, pissed me off: He was using the sports platform to divide us,” James said on Monday. “Sports is so amazing, what sports can do for everyone, no matter shape, size, race. It brings people together like no other. I’m not going to let one individual, no matter the power, the impact he should have, ever use sport as a platform to divide us.”
When asked if he would follow the lead set by the NFL and kneel during the national anthem, James said he was choosing to speak out instead.
“My voice is more important than my knee,” he said. “What I say, I think it should hit home for a lot of people. I don’t think I have to get on my knee to further my point.”
Trump inspired a wave of protests over the weekend when he said players who protested during the anthem should be fired at an Alabama Rally. On Saturday, he tweeted “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
His remarks were in reference to NFL players like former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality. In response, several NFL teams chose to remain in their locker rooms or kneel during the song before the NFL games on Sunday.