An ambiguous tweet from LeBron James, targeting a police officer who shot dead a black teenage girl, earned the basketball player an outcry from the American conservative right, which accuses him of racism and irresponsibility.
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“It’s your turn # Responsibility”, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar wrote on his Twitter account on Wednesday, illustrating a photo of the police officer who shot Ma’Khia Bryant on Tuesday as she was about to stab another woman, in Columbus, Ohio.
The 36-year-old basketball player deleted the post a few hours later, “because it was being used to generate even more hate,” he explained, acknowledging that he wrote it out of “anger”. “This is not about a police officer” but “the whole system, and they always use our words to create more racism. “
“What I am desperately calling for is that people be made more accountable to their responsibilities,” concluded LeBron James.
This contextualization did not stop the social networks from roaring, fed by several personalities of the conservative right, in the first place Donald Trump, who denounced “the racist diatribes” of the defending champion of the North American professional basketball league NBA . Comments “sectarian, malicious, insulting and degrading”, according to the former US president.
“LeBron James drew hasty conclusions and incited violence against a police officer,” said Republican Senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton. “Isn’t that a problem for the NBA?” to Twitter? “
After publicly avoiding big social issues early in his career, LeBron James began speaking in 2012 after teenage Trayvon Martin was killed in cold blood by a white man in Florida.
“It touched me directly because I have sons,” he explained in an interview with CNN in July 2018 about his two boys, born in 2004 (LeBron Jr) and 2007 (Bryce) . “Thinking that my son could have walked out of our house and never come back,” he described, “that triggered something. “
Since then, he has regularly taken a stand, in particular on issues related to racial discrimination. “I think it just matches the evolution and maturation of a man,” his longtime partner Maverick Carter told Bleacher Report in 2018.
“Focus on basketball”
Because of his popularity, status and activism, “LBJ” can today be considered the most politically influential sports figure in the United States. He has already had several heated discussions at a distance with Donald Trump, most often via Twitter.
In addition to his statements, he distinguished himself by producing, in 2018, the documentary “Shut Up and Dribble” (Shut up and dribble) which evokes the emancipation and commitment of African-American basketball players. He also hosts “The Shop”, a television talk show on the HBO channel during which he discusses social issues with prestigious guests.
In 2020, the four-time best NBA player went further by launching Operation More Than a Vote, which recruited tens of thousands of volunteers to encourage black citizens to register and vote. .
“LeBron James should focus on basketball rather than overseeing the destruction of the NBA,” urged Donald Trump on Thursday, relaunching the theory that the political positions of sportsmen tense part of the public, which is turning away.
In 2016, Donald Trump had thus linked the bad audiences of the NFL American football championship to the movement initiated by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had ostensibly put one knee to the ground while the American anthem resounded, in protest against racial discrimination in the USA.
The link has never been formally established between activism and the popularity or unpopularity of a sport, and the WNBA women’s basketball league recorded, in 2020, the largest audience increase among the major American leagues when its players had were by far the most active in supporting the movement born after the death of George Floyd.
After his tweet on Wednesday, several conservative figures recalled that LeBron James had criticized, in October 2019, the tweet of an NBA leader publicly supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
At the time, he was accused of having privileged his financial interests in China to the detriment of democracy and human rights.