“When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and national anthem, what I do personally is turn off the game,” Trump told Fox and Friends. “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. Then I see everybody kneeling during the anthem. That’s not acceptable to me. When I see them kneeling during the game, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. Let me tell you this, plenty of other people out there, too.”
Trump continued: “The ratings for the basketball are way down, as you know. I hear some others are way down, including baseball. We have to stand up for our flag, stand up for our country. A lot of people agree with me. If I’m wrong, I’m going to lose an election. That’s okay with me. I will always stand for our flag.”
James Reacts to Trump’s Criticism
“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. I already know where this could go, where it could lead to for tomorrow for me. I’m not going to get into it.”
James did add more about the position that the NBA is in during its restart:
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. But also respect what else we try to bring to the game and acknowledge it — what’s right and what’s wrong.
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. If we continue to talk about, ‘We want better, we want change,’ we have an opportunity to do that. But the game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball: We could [not] care less.
James & Trump Have History
While promoting his I Promise School for at-risk youths in his native Akron, Ohio, James told CNN’s Don Lemon in an interview that aired on August 3, 2018, that he felt Trump was “using sports to divide us.”
Trump later responded on Twitter saying: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
In June 2018, Trump said he would not invite James or the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry to the White House after the NBA Finals.