Asked to respond to former L.A. Galaxy former Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s comments that he should stick to sports, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he’ll keep speaking out for people in need from underserved communities in this country.
Responding toIbrahimovic’s comments after the Los Angeles Lakers’ win over the Portland Trailblazers on Friday, James said he not going to shut up and dribble.
“At the end of the day, I would never shut up about things that are wrong,” James said. “I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression -- things that go on in our community because I was a part of my community at one point, seeing the things that were going on.
“And 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. They need a voice, and I’m their voice. And I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in m community, around this country and around the world.”
In the interview with Discovery + Sport in Sweden earlier this week, pro soccer player Ibrahimovic -- who formerly played with the Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy but is back in Europe playing for AC Milan -- said he enjoys watching LeBron James playing but does not believe he should get involved in politics.
“It is phenomenal what he’s doing, but I do not like when people have some type of status and they do politics at the same time with what they are doing,” Ibrahimovic said. “I mean, do what you’re good at. Do the category that you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football. I don’t do politics. I if I would be a political politician, I would do politics.
“That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they come into a certain status. Stay out of it. Just do what you’re best at because it doesn’t look good.”
You can watch Ibrahamovic’s comments below:
James, of course, was named SI’s sportsperson of the year for an unprecedented third time in 2020, along with Breanna Stewart, Patrick Mahomes, Naomi Osaka and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, for his work off the court.
James worked diligently to get more people out to vote across the country, specifically in inner-city areas where access to polling places has historically been an obstacle for those that live there -- particularly black people.
James put his thoughts on how to deal with racial and social injustice into practice this year with the organization of More Than a Vote, an effort he put together with other black athletes to combat voter suppression.
James opened the I Promise school in the Summer of 2018, with a focus on helping at-risk students. Last year he announced plans to construct House Three Thirty – named in homage to the city’s area code -- a 60,000 square-foot planned community that will include retail, dining and event spaces, along with a 50-unit housing complex for students and families of the nearby I Promise school.
James praised former WNBA player Renee Montgomery, now a part-owner of the Atlanta Dream after the league pressured former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who opposed WNBA players’ racial justice initiatives last summer, to sell her share of the team.
“There’s no way I’ll ever just stick to sports because I understand how this platform and how powerful my voice is,” James said. “And he can just ask Renee Montgomery if I would have shut up and just dribbled, seeing that beautiful black woman today, being part of a group where she’s part of the Atlanta Dream ownership group.”
James also gave props to younger players like Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics, New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara and Mahomes for community service work and speaking out on social injustice issues.
“It makes me feel proud to be a part of a generation where our voices are heard and guys are speaking from an educated mindset,” James said. “But more importantly, when you speak from your heart, it rings bells even louder.
“And we’ve got a lot of guys speaking from the heart that didn’t believe they had a voice at one point in time, or now they’re coming into it and they see that they can have a voice and that their voice really matters. That makes me proud.”
James also reminded reporters that Ibrahimovic himself spoke out against “undercover racism” in Sweden in 2018.
“I believe in like 2018 he was the same guy who said when he was back in Sweden talking about the same things because his last name wasn’t a certain last name that he felt like there was some racism going on when he was out on the pitch, right?” James said. “He did say that, right? I thought he said that.
“So, I speak from a very educated mind. I’m kind of the wrong guy to go out because I do my homework.”