LOS ANGELES — LeBron James’s t-shirt and his mouth delivered the same message: He’s beyond frustrated with the epidemic of mass shootings in the United States.
Days after 12 people were shot and killed at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., the All-Star forward joined his Lakers teammates and the Hawks by donning a black t-shirt that bore the victims’ names on the back and the word “ENOUGH.” on the front. After L.A.’s 107-106 home victory, in which he delivered the winning points with a go-ahead put-back dunk, James offered his “prayers and condolences” to the victims’ families before offering extended thoughts on gun violence.
“Probably the same thing that went through everyone’s mind,” James told reporters during post-game comments, when asked for his initial reaction to the Thousand Oaks shooting. “Not again. Oh wow. What the hell. Probably some more explicit terms that I won’t say right here. … It all comes back to this gun situation that we have in America. … People are being able to buy guns and do things with them and innocent lives are being taken at young ages.”
According to Gun Violence Archive data cited recently by USA Today, the Thousand Oaks shooting marked the 307th mass shooting in the United States in 2018. Those attacks have caused more than 325 deaths and more than 1,250 injuries. James said that he has sensed the gun violence epidemic getting worse.
“When I was younger, we didn’t really have to worry about gun violence too much,” he said. “If you had a problem with someone, you fisted it out and moved on. Now, it’s like people are shooting it out and don’t even have a problem with somebody, they just have a problem with themselves or a problem with the situation they’re in. It’s just very troubling times for everyone.”
James, a father of three children, added that parents are facing daily challenges due to gun violence.
“For parents, how can you even be comfortable sending your kids to school, sending them to church, sending them to the movies or sending them to the mall?” he asked. “Those were like the great havens when I was growing up. School, church, going to the mall and going to a sporting event—that was like heaven. It’s kind of scary at this point in time.”
The “ENOUGH.” shirts were accompanied Sunday by a pre-game moment of silence and reading of the victims’ names. The Clippers and Bucks also wore the shirts while warming up for their game on Saturday at Staples Center, which is roughly 45 miles southeast of the Borderline Bar & Grill.
“It’s about recognizing what’s going on in society,” James said of the shirts. “For us to be so close to this situation, not being too far away… [from] an act that none of us ever want to be a part of [or] to even hear about, no matter how close or far you are. … Just recognizing a very troubling point in time. We’re here for the families in spirit.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was in attendance on Sunday, and the league office pre-approved the “ENOUGH.” shirt designs before this weekend’s games. Silver told ESPN that he “support[s] our players’ desire to speak out,” adding that they “aren’t just ballplayers, they’re citizens” with “strong feelings about what’s happening in society.”
In years past, James and his Heat teammates wore hoodies to honor teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death in Florida in 2012. Then, in 2014, James and his Cavaliers teammates wore “I can’t breathe” t-shirts to honor Eric Garner, who died during a confrontation with the New York Police Department.
This isn’t the first time that James has directly addressed the gun violence issue this year. During All-Star Weekend in L.A., James wondered how young gunmen, like the one who opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida back in February, gained access to their weapons.
“We’ve seen these schools and these tragedies happen in America and there’s been no change to gun control,” he said. “We have to do something about it because we’re all sending our kids to school, right? … We have a kid who was legally not able to go get a beer at a bar, but could go buy an AR-15? It doesn’t make sense. … How is it possible that we can have minors to go buy a gun? I don’t have the answer to it. … There’s been way too many [tragedies] because of guns.”