President Donald Trump has a long history of pandering to racists to gain political power. He won notoriety in right-wing circles after peddling his racist birther crusade against President Barack Obama; launched his campaign for president with a speech calling Mexicans “rapists,” and, most recently, referred to Haiti and Africa as “shitholes.”
While the president’s overt racism is shocking, dangerous, and embarrassing, the fact that he suffers virtually no political fallout from the Republican Party for his actions is almost just as disgusting. History will not be kind to those who stood by silently while Trump emboldened racists not only in America, but around the world.
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On Monday, Jan. 15, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers spoke out against Trump in a pre-game interview:
“The state of racism will never die, but what we cannot do is allow it to conquer us as people. The guy in control has given people and racism, and negative racism, an opportunity to be out and outspoken without fear. And that’s the fearful thing for us because it’s with you, and it’s around every day, but he’s allowed people to come out and just feel confident about doing negative things. Like I said, we can’t allow that to stop us from continuing to be together and preach the right word of livin’ and lovin’ and laughin’ and things of that nature. Because would we want to live anywhere else? I don’t think so. We love this place.”
James was also asked what he thought MLK would think about his activism:
“Well I hope I could make him proud or made him proud. Just taking what he was able to give to us and give us that type of empowerment, give us that type of strength to be able to go out and talk about things that really matter. Be able to live for something that’s more than you as an individual. So hopefully I would be one of those guys that made him proud. Hopefully I’m, making him proud still with him looking down on us.”
It’s safe to assume that King would be proud of LeBron James. As one of the biggest sports stars and brands on the planet, James stands to lose fan support and millions of dollars for attacking the president. But over the past two years, James has taken the risk and spoken out against Trump, most notably his criticism of national anthem protesters. He also called Trump a “bum” after he attacked Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors for refusing to accept the customary White House invite after winning the NBA Championship.
While the vast majority of Republican leaders stay quiet about Trump’s racism — either out of agreement or fear of a backlash — James should be commended for standing up regardless of the consequences.
Share image by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images.