LeBron James did not pull any punches when it came to the message he was trying to send on Monday with his practice attire.
The Los Angeles Lakers star wore a shirt that simply said: “Vote or Die,” sending a strong message aimed at creating change through November’s General Election.
“We are at a time where we need change. In order for change [to occur] it’s all about leadership, and leadership starts at the top,” James said.
James has been a prominent figure over the last week in the NBA’s push for social justice issues, stemming from the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23. Games were boycotted for two days as players mulled sitting out the rest of the playoffs.
James was reportedly vocal that he would be OK with scrapping the playoffs to raise awareness on the issues. However, after a night of meetings with his teammates and hearing from those he respects, James changed his mind, favoring a restart.
LeBron Has Made Impact Off the Court With Actions
It wasn’t long ago that James was famously told to “shut up and dribble” by Fox News host Laura Ingraham. Since that moment in 2018 has done anything but that, admitting he was motivated by Ingraham’s words.
“I knew at that moment it was bigger than basketball and I had to say something, because it wasn’t just about me, it was about all of us,” James said, per The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“They’ll be telling you guys to shut up and just write. Or just shut up and be a doctor, or shut up and be a lawyer or just shut up and be a teacher or just shut up and do whatever your occupation is. I think that’s unfair to all of us because we are so much more than what our occupation says or what our name tag says.”
James has been a force for change in many ways off the basketball court. Most notably, he helped create “More Than a Vote,” a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting Black voters, and opened the “I Promise School,” a public school in his native Akron, Ohio, for at-risk students.
Voting has been a big issue for James, who recently reacted to the Lakers home arena, Staples Center, being named as a voting center for the upcoming election.
“More Than A Vote is not only about trying to get people in our community to actually go out and vote; it is also giving them the knowledge and the power and the mechanism to know that they can create change,” James told VICE. “That’s all we hear in the Black community all the time, saying we want change.”
Kyle Kuzma Delivers Strong Message on Police Reform
James wasn’t the only Lakers player with a message on Monday. While speaking to reporters, Kyle Kuzma also spoke out with a strong message on police reform. Specifically, Kuzma wants to see Senate Bill 731 pass in the state of California.
“It basically prohibits police from having the ability from breaking the law and not getting into trouble,” Kuzma said during his video conference with reporters after practice. “Obviously, it’s hard to get passed right now, but we’re just trying to push it through and make real change. That’s one thing just to continue being an activist on, commenting on racism, but we got to get these bills passed. That’s the most important thing.”
Kuzma was asked by Los Angeles Times reporter Tania Ganguli. if he’s had dialogue with some of the security guard around the NBA who are current or former police officers.
“They kind of stand for their own, a lot,” Kuzma said. “But the talks I’ve had with good policemen … it’s about the training aspect. That’s the biggest thing. They only have budgets from that standpoint to have the proper training and knowledge. You have cops that work in, let’s say a cop works in Los Angeles, works in Compton, but lives in Santa Clarita. He doesn’t know the area. He doesn’t know the people or the background.
“So, the biggest thing is not just defunding police, but actually giving them the proper resources and training to better themselves. For instance, [his hometown] Flint, Mich. Everyone wants to talk about defunding the police, but for a place like there, they actually need to hire more police. It’s a city of 100,000 people, and we have like 95 cops. So, one cop has to service 10,000 people. That doesn’t make sense.”
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