LeBron James said he will always speak his mind and stand up for what he believes is right. The NBA icon slapped back at Swedish soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic after he said James should “stick to what he’s good at.”
The former LA Galaxy striker said in a recent interview that athletes should stay out of politics. “Just do what you do best because it doesn’t look good,” Ibrahimovic remarked.
“I would never shut up about things that are wrong,” James said, according to Fox News. “I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression. Things that go on in our community. I know what’s going on still, because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that’s going through the same thing, and they need a voice, and I’m their voice.
“I’ll use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that’s going on around this country and around the world,” James added. “There’s no way I would ever just stick to sports. Because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice is.”
James’ comments come after Ibrahimovic said in a Swedish Discovery+ interview that celebrities should stay out of politics.
“Do what you’re good at. Do the category you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football. I don’t do politics. If I would be a political politician, I would do politics,” Ibrahimovic said in a Swedish interview on Discovery+, ESPN reported. “That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they become in a certain status. Stay out of it.”
LeBron James Has Been Told to Stay Out of Politics Before
This isn’t the first time someone has told LeBron James to stop advocating for social change. Fox News’ Laura Ingram famously told the Lakers guard to “shut up and dribble” after he brought up race and struggle in America in 2018. She said people shouldn’t take advice from “someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball.”
But James has been more than just a mouthpiece. He’s funded and worked at several agencies that assist people in need. He’s also given his name and time to groups he feels deserve the attention.
His I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, has educated hundreds of at-risk kids. The school also provides affordable housing, meal programs, and job training for the students’ families. His More Than A Vote initiative marshaled 40,000 volunteers to work polling centers last year to combat voter suppression, ESPN said.
Telling athletes to stick to sports has become the standard response for many. Some have even blamed politically outspoken players for the falling NFL ratings last season. But James said people with platforms must take a stand.
“As athletes, we’ve been hearing this for a long time,” James said. “You should [feel] privileged. You should be thankful to be able to dribble a ball or run a football or be able to do the 100-yard dash or be able to swing a baseball bat. And things of that nature. You shouldn’t be able to speak about anything else, no matter if it’s right or wrong, you should just do that. But that’s not the case. That’s not the case anymore. As long as I’m around, it won’t be the case for a long time.”