NBA star LeBron James on Wednesday said the league isn’t torn about losing President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the ‘Secretary of Failure’ Pence: Chief Justice Roberts ‘has been a disappointment to conservatives’ Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE as a viewer due to his opposition to demonstrations during the national anthem, saying “we could care less.”
“I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership, him viewing the game,” James told reporters. “And that’s all I got to say.”
James then described this November’s election as a referendum on Trump.
“I think our game is in a beautiful position and we have fans all over the world and our fans not only love the way we play the game, we try to give it back to them with our commitment to the game,” he said.
“But also respect what else we try to bring to the game and acknowledge it — what’s right and what’s wrong,” James said. “And I hope everyone, no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter the size, will see what leadership that we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner and it’s a big moment for us as Americans.”
Most of the NBA’s players, coaches and officials have knelt during the national anthem to protest racial inequalities. The NBA resumed its season in late July in a “bubble” environment in Orlando because of the coronavirus.
The resumption of play came after an agreement between the league and the players on ensuring participants could use their platforms to speak out on social justice. Many of the players have social justice messages on their jerseys such as “Education Reform” and “Justice.” The court’s have the words “Black Lives Matter” prominently displayed.
James in June founded More Than a Vote, a voting rights group aimed at motivating African Americans to cast ballots in the election.
James added that “the game will go on without his eyes on it,” referring to the president.
“I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball: We could care less,” he concluded.
Lakers’ LeBron James on President Trump saying kneeling NBA players are a “disgrace”: “I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership. … November is right around the corner and it’s a big moment for us as Americans.” pic.twitter.com/m8G3KQAWsd
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) August 6, 2020
The president has repeatedly lashed out at athletes kneeling during the national anthem in silent protest against police brutality and racial inequality. The act was spearheaded by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
Trump on Wednesday said he turns off a game if he sees players kneeling and encouraged others to do the same.
“I think it’s disgraceful. We work with [the NBA], we worked with them very hard trying to get open. I was pushing for them to get open,” he said on “Fox & Friends,” referring to coronavirus lockdowns. “Then I see everybody kneeling during the anthem. That’s not acceptable to me.”
Trump suggested that ratings are down for sports because of viewers like himself boycotting over the protests.
However, ESPN noted that Trump’s statement was inaccurate because the NBA has seen an increase in ratings over the last week.
The two games on opening night that aired across TNT and streaming platforms scored an average audience of 2.9 million viewers, which the outlet noted is an 109 percent increase above the average viewership for an NBA game during the 2019-20 season.