Lakers’ LeBron James Addresses Controversy, Sounds Off on Police Violence

LeBron James, Lakers (right)

Getty LeBron James, Lakers (right)

It was immediately after the Lakers’ disappointing Game 3 loss to the Nuggets in the NBA’s Western Conference finals on Tuesday, but star forward LeBron James was still ready to address the subject of social justice. Specifically, he was asked about the L.A. County sheriff who challenged James last week to match the reward money offered any tips or information that leads to the arrest of the gunman wanted for ambushing two deputies as they sat in their cruiser last weekend.

James went on a bit of a rant, but did circle back to the sheriff’s challenge, saying, “I have zero comment on the sheriff.”

But James made clear that, in advocating for action on social justice for the string of police-involved shootings involving Black victims over the past year, he has not and will not advocate for violence as a response.

“I have never in my 35 years, ever condoned violence,” James said. “Never have. But I also know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong and I grew up in the inner city, in a black community. What we called the ‘hood or the ghetto, however you want to picture it. I’ve seen a lot of counts, firsthand, of a lot of Black people, I guess, racially profiled because of our color. I’ve seen it throughout my whole life.”

Vanessa Bryant Backed LeBron James in Sheriff Tiff

James had yet to address the comments by Sheriff Alex Villanueva. But last week, he did get some backup from Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Lakers icon (and James friend) Kobe Bryant. Vanessa Bryant shared critical tweets and headlines about Villaneuva on Instagram following his assertion that James should offer matching funds.

According to Fox News, Villanueva told radio host John Phillips, “This challenge is to Lebron James. I want you to match that and double that reward. I know you care about law enforcement. You expressed a very interesting statement about your perspective on race relations and on officer-involved shootings and the impact that it has on the African-American community. And I appreciated that. But likewise, we need to appreciate that respect for life goes across all professions.”

The reward at the time was for $175,000.

Vanessa Bryant is suing Villanueva’s department, accusing eight of his officers who were at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others in Calabasas, California, in January of taking cellphone photos and selling them for publication.

LeBron James: ‘What’s Going on in Our Community Is Not OK’

James was clear that he did not want to come off as anti-police. But he emphasized that the string of videos that have been released indicates that change is needed in how policing is carried out in this country.

Here’s what James went on to say:

I’m not saying that all cops are bad. Because I actually, throughout high school and things of that nature, I am relying on them all the time. They’re not all bad. But when you see the videos that are going on, you see not only my hometown but all across America the acts of violence toward my kind, I can’t do nothing but to speak about it and see the common denominator. But not one time have I ever said, let’s act violent towards cops. I just said that what’s going on in our community is not OK. And we fear for that and we fear for our lives. It’s something were go on every single day as a Black man, a Black woman or a Black kid or a Black girl.

We fear. We fear that moment, when we are pulled over, or—I just seen I believe yesterday or the day before of a guy in Wisconsin was renting a house and the next-door neighbor called the police on him and the police came in the house without a warrant, without anything, and arrested the guy, a Black man because he was sitting on the porch. If you can’t tell me that’s not racial profiling then I don’t know what the hell we are looking at. But I do not condone violence towards anyone—police, Black people, white people, anyone of color, anyone not of color because that’s not ever going to make this world or America what we want it to be.

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