Citing his own experience as a black athlete coming up through the US system, breaking many barriers including race, NBA star LeBron James expressed concern over how things have changed in America at the moment, with US President Donald Trump using sports to divide the country.
"What I've noticed over the past few months... He's kinda used sports to kinda divide us, and that's something that I can't relate to," the Los Angeles Lakers player told CNN on Monday.
"I can't sit back and say nothing," added James, referring to the protests by sports persons against Trump’s policies, which the president is trying to portray as a sign of decaying “American values”.
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James, visibly unhappy, spoke about how the protests across the country, including the kneel-down ones by NFL players, have been peaceful shows of dissent. Such displays are important in a democratic set-up.
It began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback with National Football League (NFL) team San Francisco 49ers, knelt in protest when the US National Anthem was being played before a match.
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Kaepernick, who is yet to be signed on by any other NFL team since opting for free agency in 2017, knelt protesting racial injustice and police brutality following the gunning down by the police of two unarmed black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, in July 2016.
Since then, many football players have protested by kneeling during the national anthem. Last year, Stephen Curry of Golden State Warriors, refused to meet Trump at the White House as part of the traditional postseason visit by the reigning NBA champions. Trump, in retaliation, cancelled the visit. James had called Trump a "bum" at the time.
James recalled his teenage years when sports gave him the opportunity to learn about different races, interacting with white kids as well as children from many other ethnic groups on the playing field.
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“Sports was the first time I was ever around someone white. I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got the opportunity to learn about me ... And I was like, 'Oh wow, this is all because of sports',” he said.
LeBron, who campaigned for 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, added that he “would never sit across” from Trump if an opportunity comes up.