Just hours after President Trump insulted the 33-year-old basketball player’s intelligence following James’ interview with CNN’s Don Lemon earlier this week — where the sports star called out the president for “dividing” the country — Mrs. Trump’s spokeswoman released a statement in support of James.
“It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children, the statement from Stephanie Grisham read, according to CNN.
“As you know, Mrs. Trump has traveled the country and world talking to children about their well-being, healthy living, and the importance of responsible online behavior with her Be Best initiative,” Grisham’s statement continued.
At the end of the statement, Mrs. Trump’s spokeswoman said that the first lady “would be open to visiting the I Promise School in Akron,” a school James recently opened up in his hometown, where attendees will receive free breakfast, lunch and snacks, as well as a free bike, according to Time.
Responding to James’ interview, President Trump wrote on Friday night, “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon.”
“He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do,” he added.
Seemingly referring to basketball legend Michael Jordan, President Trump wrote, “I like Mike!”
Jordan later responded through his spokesperson. “I support LeBron James. He’s doing an amazing job for his community,” Jordan said, according to CNN.
Days earlier, four-time NBA MVP James explained that “I can’t sit back and say nothing” while he watches President Trump “divide us.”
“You know, we are in a position right now in America where this race thing [has] taken over,” he told Lemon on Monday. “I believe our president is kinda trying to divide us. He is — I don’t want to say kinda. He’s dividing us.”
As an example, James cited the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, a movement that started in 2016 by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a way to draw attention to the continued oppression of people due to their race in the United States.
President Trump has continued to bring the protests up during his rallies and on Twitter. He’s also threatened to take away tax breaks for the NFL, urging team owners to fine or even fire athletes who “disrespect our flag.”
James has previously voiced his opposition to the president on multiple occasions.
Ahead of the NBA Championships in June, James — who recently signed a $154 million contract with the L.A. Lakers — was one of the athletes who said he wouldn’t accept an invitation to the White House should his now-former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, win. (The Golden State Warriors went on to win the championship.)
James also called Trump a “bum,” adding that “going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!“
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Talking with Lemon on Monday, James spoke openly about how being involved in athletics helped him understand people from different backgrounds.
“Sports [was] the first time I ever was around someone white,” he said. “I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got an opportunity to learn about me. And we became very good friends. It was always about sport.”
Added James: “Sports has never been something that divides people. It’s always been something that brings someone together.”