The Los Angeles Lakers are diving into the political-sports firestorm created when President Donald Trump insulted the intelligence of Lakers star LeBron James.
Lakers CEO and Controlling Owner Jeanie Buss released a statement regarding the controversy.
“We could not be more proud to have LeBron James as part of our Lakers family.” Buss said. “He is an incredibly thoughtful and intelligent leader and clearly appreciates the power that sports has to unite communities and inspire the world to be a better place. Those efforts should be celebrated by all.”
The Buss statement Saturday came after Trump’s insult on Twitter late Friday, responding to criticism James leveled at him in a CNN interview.
“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!” Trump tweeted.
The last sentence was a reference to former NBA great Michael Jordan.
“We are in a position right now in America where this race thing has taken over — one, because I believe our president is kind of trying to divide us…” James told Lemon in the “CNN Tonight” interview, which originally aired Monday and re-aired Friday, leading to Trump’s tweet.
“Kind of?” Lemon interrupted.
“He is,” James said, “He is. No, I don’t want to say `kind of.’ He’s dividing us, and what I noticed over the last few months is that he’s kind of used sports to kind of divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to because I know that sports was the first time I ever was around someone white. And I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got an opportunity to learn about me and we became very good friends, and I was like, `Oh wow, this is all because of sports.’ And sports has never been something that divides people, it’s always been something that brings (people) together.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of many candidates Trump defeated for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, jumped into the fray to defend James.
“Rather than criticizing @KingJames, we should be celebrating him for his charity work and efforts to help kids. By the way, all-around he’s better than Michael Jordan. That’s a fact,” Kasich tweeted Saturday.
James, a high school legend in Ohio who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers for most of his NBA career, has a long history of charitable giving in Ohio. He appeared on Lemon’s show to promote the opening of the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, which was built in a partnership between the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron City Schools.
First Lady Melania Trump defended James in comments to The Associated Press.
“It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has,” the first lady’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told the AP’s Jonathan Lemire on Saturday. “The First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today.
“Her platform centers around visiting organizations, hospitals and schools, and she would be open to visiting the I Promise School in Akron.”
President Trump held a political rally later Saturday in Lewis Center, Ohio, near Columbus, but he didn’t speak further about the James controversy.
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