By now you know about Donald Trump’s latest Twitter rant directed at LeBron James.
In the interview mentioned, James said Trump uses sports to divide. In fact, I think Trump uses sports to distract. There were more @KingJames mentions on Twitter on Saturday than on any day during the 2017-18 NBA season. Consider that when people are discussing Trump vs. James they are suddenly no longer discussing Stormy Daniels, Russian interference, tariffs, the Access Hollywood tape, or the “blame on many sides” statement post-Charlottesville.
It’s a laundry list of scandals Trump manages to evade, but the truth is, any one of these would’ve crippled James.
To date, James’ only public misstep has been ‘The Decision’ — that announcement, by the way, generated $2.5 million for a local Boys & Girls Club. Even in the midst of his only controversy, James was being philanthropic.
James and his wife Savannah have been long-time supporters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, including a donation of 1,000 computers to locations around the country. They started the After School All-Stars in Akron for kids who don’t have safe homes. They funded the ONEXONE foundation, focusing on challenges that poor children everywhere face: hunger, health, education, water and play. They support the Special Olympics. And they support the Children’s Defense Fund, a non-profit that advocates for child welfare around the world.
At the age of 33, LeBron James 2.0 is reaching a point where he’s now comfortable exerting his political influence. And perhaps that’s exactly why Trump came after him. Back when LeBron was just a basketball player, Trump was even a fan.
But since he’s become a political player — campaigning for Hillary Clinton and criticizing the President himself — James has become a target, not just for Trump, but for other prominent Republicans as well.
In his ‘Rolling with the Champion’ feature on his Uninterrupted video platform, James said Trump is “someone who doesn’t understand the people, and really don’t give a f— about the people.”
In response to James’ critiques, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham infamously said James should “keep the political commentary to [himself],” and “shut up and dribble.”
James then produced a documentary series named ‘Shut Up and Dribble,’ a three-part series airing on Showtime in October.
“If being a star athlete is inherently a political experience, ‘Shut Up and Dribble’ tells that complex and dramatic story,” David Nevins, president and CEO of Showtime Networks Inc., said in a release. “LeBron James is one of many competitors whose place in the spotlight has led not to silence but perspective, and he, Maverick Carter and Gotham Chopra have given us an important, insightful docuseries that should bring their fans and fellow citizens to a higher level of discourse, rather than the dismissal satirized in the title.”
That’s not James’ only foray into entertainment. His barbershop-based show, ‘The Shop’ debuts Aug. 28 on HBO. The conversations span a variety of topics with James and his notable friends — Jon Stewart, Snoop Dogg, Michael Bennett, Odell Beckham Jr., Candace Parker, Draymond Green and Victor Cruz.
In the first episode, James details how his relationship with his son is influenced by the fact that he didn’t have a father in his life and is yearning to break that cycle among black men.
James’ ability to influence has never been in doubt. It’s where and how he is choosing to exert that influence that is shifting.
His ‘I Promise School’ is more than an elementary school — it’s a productivity pipeline, ensuring that generations of students receive all the tools necessary to succeed, from free tuition to uniforms to bicycles and meals.
All of these moves are as political as they are philanthropic. James has been outspoken about education on the heels of Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos’, attempts to eliminate guidelines on discrimination in schools put in place by President Barack Obama.
James’ basketball legacy is secure. The next chapter of his career and life will be about defining his off-court legacy. And if his most recent spat with Trump is any indication, he’ll continue to use such opportunities to shift the media’s focus to issues he feels are more worthy of our attention.