INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — LeBron James has been horrified at the videos of police shootings and violence he’s seen over the past few months. Like many Americans, he’s anxious for change.
He says it’s not happening quickly enough.
“I’m not here to ramp on America, that’s not me,” James told the Associated Press on Monday. “I’m not a politician, but I’ve lived this life and I’ve got a family and what scares me is my kids growing up in this society right now, where innocent lives are being taken and it seems like nothing is being done.”
James, who delivered an NBA title to title-starved Cleveland earlier this summer, spoke passionately about his concerns for his children’s future and other social topics to the AP and during a wider interview session as the Cavaliers held their first media day as defending champions.
James said plans to stand during the national anthem and said he supports San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose decision to kneel has sparked a heated national debate.
“I’m all in favor of anyone, athlete or non-athlete, being able to express what they believe in in a peaceful manner and that’s exactly what Colin Kaepernick is doing and I respect that,” James said. “When I’m passionate about something I’ll speak up on it, so me standing for the national anthem is something I will do. That’s who I am, that’s what I believe in. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect and don’t agree with what Colin Kaepernick is doing.
“You have the right to voice your opinion, stand for your opinion and he’s doing it in the most peaceful way I’ve ever seen someone do something,” James said.
The three-time champion admires how Kaepernick has continued an important conversation James and his friends Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul helped further in July when they took the stage together at the ESPYs, ESPN’s annual awards show, and decried violence against unarmed black men. The foursome also encouraged athletes to do more to support local police and improve communities.
Kaepernick’s protest has prompted some athletes to follow him and kneel or raise a closed fist during the anthem. James says he is troubled by criticism overshadowing the reasons behind the demonstrations. He said things don’t seem to be improving, as evidenced by recent shootings captured on video in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Obviously, I know things don’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t seem like there is any change,” he told the AP. “We just want the conversation to continue to be, ‘Who are our leaders? Who are our true leaders that are going to help us change what’s going on?’ Everyone is looking for that and no one knows.”
James recognizes he doesn’t have the answers to very complex problems, but he’s proud of his role in getting people to talk about them.
“We just wanted the conversation to continue to go, to understand that police brutality and killings and things of that nature of innocent people, it’s not the answer,” he said.
A father of three, James has been disturbed enough by recent shooting to fear the day his 12-year-old son, LeBron Jr., gets a driver’s license and can be out on his own.
“You tell your kids if you just apply and if you just listen to the police that they will be respectful and it will work itself out,” he said. “You see these videos that continue to come out, and it’s a scary-ass situation that if my son calls me and says that he’s been pulled over that I’m not that confident that things are going to go well and my son is going to return home.”
The 31-year-old superstar takes personal pride in raising awareness among his peers on social causes, understanding the power of his fame. Through his foundation, James has given children in his hometown of Akron and elsewhere educational opportunities and more.
He’s not recruiting others to help, but hopes his actions can inspire.
“I’m not here to ask anybody else to do any more,” he told the AP. “Guys have a lot going on. I feel like I’m doing all I can do — and more — to be in my community, to give back to my community, to lend my hand with my foundation with all the kids and just letting them know that there is a brighter tomorrow and America is great. I’m doing as much as I can with these kids who look up to me.”