Basketball great LeBron James on Tuesday accused President Donald Trump of intensifying racial divisions in the United States.
“I believe our president is kind of trying to divide us,” James, who is also a philanthropist, said in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.
“He’s kind of used sport to… divide us and that’s something I can’t relate to, because I know that sport was the first time I ever was around someone white. You know?” the bearded and bespectacled James said.
Trump has repeatedly criticized National Football League players who kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, a protest begun by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
James, 33, has previously expressed solidarity with the kneeling players and voiced earlier criticism of Trump.
He told his CNN interviewer that he “can’t sit back and not say nothing” in the face of Trump’s attempts at discord.
James, who ranks seventh in career National Basketball Association scoring, will play with the Los Angeles Lakers next season after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But he remains tied to Ohio, where on Monday at an elementary school for at-risk youngsters opened in his hometown of Akron, through his LeBron James Family Foundation.
James, wearing a grey suit and buttoned-down shirt, said even the most successful African Americans face discriminatory attitudes.
“They always going to let you know that you are the n-word no matter who you are,” he said.
“I think it’s always been there. But I think the president in charge now has given people — they don’t care now, they throw it to your face.”
James was asked what he would say to Trump if he could sit across from the president.
“I would never sit across from him,” James replied. “I’d sit across from Barack, though,” he said of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, the first African American president.