Zlatan Ibrahimovic Doubles Down on LeBron James Criticism: 'Athletes Should Be Athletes'

Publish date:

AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled down on his criticism of LeBron James on Tuesday and underscored his view that athletes should stay out of politics.

"Athletes unite the world, politics divide it," Ibrahimovic said at a news conference, per ESPN. "Our role is to unite the world by doing what we do best. Athletes should be athletes and politicians should do politics."

Ibrahimovic's latest comments come less than a week after he criticized James during an interview for Discovery+ in Sweden. 

"[LeBron] is phenomenal at what he's doing, but I don't like when people have some kind of status, they go and do politics at the same time," Ibrahimovic said. "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."

"That is the big first mistake people do when they become famous and they become in a certain status. Stay out of it. Just do what you do best because it doesn't look good."

James addressed Ibrahimovic's comments following the Lakers' win over the Trail Blazers on Feb. 27. The four-time NBA champion said he will not heed Ibrahimovic's advice and noted his responsibility to "preach about equality."

"I preach about my people, and I preach about equality," James told the media. "Social injustice. Racism. Systematic voter suppression. Things that go on in our community.

"Because I was a part of my community at one point and saw the things that was going on, and I know what's going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that are going through the same thing, and they need a voice. And I'm their voice. I'm their voice, and I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community, but around this country and around the world.

Ibrahimovic isn't the first person to criticize James for speaking out on social issues. Fox News' Laura Ingraham said in 2018 James and other athletes should "shut up and dribble," which ignited controversy across the country. James did not directly respond to Ingraham, but his actions in recent years have served as quite the rebuttal. 

James opened the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio in 2018, providing students with free tuition, bicycles, transportation, breakfast and lunch each day. He then launched the More Than a Vote campaign in 2020, which helped to increase voter registration across the country in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.