James says he backs Kaeper­nick, but will stand for an­them

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers

LeBron James has been hor­ri­fied at the videos of po­lice shoot­ings and vi­o­lence he’s seen over the past few months. Like many Amer­i­cans, he’s anx­ious for change.

He says it’s not hap­pen­ing quickly enough.

“I’m not here to ramp on Amer­ica, that’s not me,” James told the As­so­ci­ated Press on Mon­day. “I’m not a politi­cian, but I’ve lived this life and I’ve got a fam­ily and what scares me is my kids grow­ing up in this so­ci­ety right now, where in­no­cent lives are be­ing taken and it seems like noth­ing is be­ing done.”

James, who de­liv­ered an NBA ti­tle to ti­tle-starved Cleve­land ear­lier this sum­mer, spoke pas­sion­ately about his con­cerns for his chil­dren’s fu­ture and other so­cial top­ics to the AP and dur­ing a wider in­ter­view ses­sion as the Cava­liers held their first me­dia day as de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons.

James said plans to stand dur­ing the na­tional an­them and said he sup­ports San Fran­cisco quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick, whose de­ci­sion to kneel has sparked a heated na­tional de­bate.

“I’m all in fa­vor of any­one, ath­lete or non-ath­lete, be­ing able to ex­press what they be­lieve in in a peace­ful man­ner and that’s ex­actly what Colin Kaeper­nick is do­ing and I re­spect that,” James said. “When I’m pas­sion­ate about some­thing I’ll speak up on it, so me stand­ing for the na­tional an­them is some­thing I will do. That’s who I am, that’s what I be­lieve in. But that doesn’t mean I don’t re­spect and don’t agree with what Colin Kaeper­nick is do­ing.

“You have the right to voice your opin­ion, stand for your opin­ion and he’s do­ing it in the most peace­ful way I’ve ever seen some­one do some­thing,” James said.

The three-time cham­pion ad­mires how Kaeper­nick has con­tin­ued an im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tion James and his friends Carmelo An­thony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul helped fur­ther in July when they took the stage to­gether at the ESPYs, ESPN’s an­nual awards show, and de­cried vi­o­lence against un­armed black men. The four­some also en­cour­aged ath­letes to do more to sup­port lo­cal po­lice and im­prove com­mu­ni­ties.

Kaeper­nick’s protest has prompted some ath­letes to fol­low him and kneel or raise a closed fist dur­ing the an­them. James says he is trou­bled by crit­i­cism over­shad­ow­ing the rea­sons be­hind the demon­stra­tions. He said things don’t seem to be im­prov­ing, as ev­i­denced by re­cent shoot­ings cap­tured on video in Tulsa, Ok­la­homa, and Char­lotte, North Carolina.

“Ob­vi­ously, I know things don’t hap­pen overnight, but it doesn’t seem like there is any change,” he told the AP. “We just want the con­ver­sa­tion to con­tinue to be, ‘Who are our lead­ers? Who are our true lead­ers that are go­ing to help us change what’s go­ing on?’ Ev­ery­one is look­ing for that and no one knows.”

James rec­og­nizes he doesn’t have the an­swers to very com­plex prob­lems, but he’s proud of his role in get­ting peo­ple to talk about them.

“We just wanted the con­ver­sa­tion to con­tinue to go, to un­der­stand that po­lice bru­tal­ity and killings and things of that na­ture of in­no­cent peo­ple, it’s not the an­swer,” he said.

A fa­ther of three, James has been dis­turbed enough by re­cent shoot­ing to fear the day his 12-year-old son, LeBron Jr., gets a driver’s li­cense and can be out on his own.

“You tell your kids if you just ap­ply and if you just lis­ten to the po­lice that they will be re­spect­ful and it will work it­self out,” he said. “You see these videos that con­tinue to come out, and it’s a scary-ass sit­u­a­tion that if my son calls me and says that he’s been pulled over that I’m not that con­fi­dent that things are go­ing to go well and my son is go­ing to re­turn home.”

The 31-year-old su­per­star takes per­sonal pride in rais­ing aware­ness among his peers on so­cial causes, un­der­stand­ing the power of his fame. Through his foun­da­tion, James has given chil­dren in his home­town of Akron and else­where ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties and more.

He’s not re­cruit­ing oth­ers to help, but hopes his ac­tions can in­spire.

“I’m not here to ask any­body else to do any more,” he told the AP. “Guys have a lot go­ing on. I feel like I’m do­ing all I can do — and more — to be in my com­mu­nity, to give back to my com­mu­nity, to lend my hand with my foun­da­tion with all the kids and just let­ting them know that there is a brighter to­mor­row and Amer­ica is great. I’m do­ing as much as I can with these kids who look up to me.”

RON SCH­WANE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cava­liers for­ward LeBron James and head coach Ty­ronn Lue are pho­tographed Mon­day dur­ing the team’s me­dia day in In­de­pen­dence, Ohio.

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