LeBron James has a response to President Donald Trump’s claim that seeing professional athletes kneel during the anthem makes him want to “turn off the game”: the NBA will not miss him.
“I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership, him viewing the game,” James said, according to ESPN, after his Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. “And that’s all I got to say.”
James initially tried to keep his comments brief saying it could become a story if he said too much on the topic. “I already know where this could go, where it could lead to for tomorrow for me,” James said. “I’m not going to get into it.”
Trump suggested Wednesday the NBA’s popularity is falling because others, like him, refuse to watch.
“When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and national anthem, what I do personally is turn off the game,” Trump said in a phone interview with Fox & Friends. “I think it’s disgraceful. We work with [the NBA], we worked with them very hard trying to get open. I was pushing for them to get open. Then I see everybody kneeling during the anthem. That’s not acceptable to me. When I see them kneeling during the game, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. Let me tell you this, plenty of other people out there, too.”
However, James, who has donated $100,000 to help former felons vote in the 2020 election, used the moment to speak on the upcoming presidential election and Trump’s refusal to watch the NBA because of the peaceful protest from the players and coaches.
“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 acknowledge it: what’s right and what’s wrong,” James said.
“And I hope everyone, no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter the size, will see what leadership that we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner and it’s a big moment for us as Americans. If we continue to talk about, ‘We want better, we want change,’ we have an opportunity to do that. But 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 could [not] care less.”
James’ comments weren’t far off from Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers’ comments on the situation.
“Well we lost one guy,” Rivers said when asked about Trump Wednesday. “I mean, so what. Like really, I don’t even care. We know that justice is on our side. Right?”