Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday)

James vows to continue activism

Lakers star tersely responds to Serie A soccer player’s criticism

- By Greg Beacham

LOS ANGELES — LeBron James responded to Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c’s criticism of his political activism with a promise that he will never just shut up and dribble.

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar also pointed out that Ibrahimovi­c clearly didn’t feel the same way about spotlighti­ng social injustices when the soccer great called out racism in his native Sweden just three years ago.

The AC Milan striker and former LA Galaxy star criticized James and other socially conscious athletes Thursday in an interview with Discovery Plus. Ibrahimovi­c called it “a mistake” for James and other athletes to get involved in political causes, saying they should “just do what you do best, because it doesn’t look good.”

James responded forcefully to Ibrahimovi­c’s stance after the Lakers’ 102-93 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.

“I would never shut up about things that are wrong,” said James, who had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

“I preach about my people, and I preach about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppressio­n, things that go on in our community,” James added. “I know what’s going on still, because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that’s going through the same thing, and they need a voice, and I’m their voice. I’ll use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that’s going on around this country and around the world. There’s no way I would ever just stick to sports, because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice is.”

James funds the I Promise School in his native Akron, Ohio. The third-leading scorer in NBA history also backs numerous initiative­s pursuing social justice, voting rights and other progressiv­e causes.

James also made it clear he was aware of comments made in 2018 by Ibrahimovi­c, the Swedish-born son of a Bosnian father and a Croatian mother.

“He’s the guy who said in Sweden, he was talking about the same things, because his last name wasn’t a (traditiona­l Swedish) last name, he felt like there was some racism going on when he was out on the pitch,” James said. “I speak from a very educated mind. I’m kind of the wrong guy to actually go at, because I do my homework.”

Indeed, Ibrahimovi­c told Canal Plus that “undercover racism” caused the Swedish media and public to treat him with less respect and reverence: “This exists, I am 100 percentsur­e, because I am not Andersson or Svensson. If I would be that, trust me, they would defend me even if I would rob a bank.”

James and Ibrahimovi­c overlapped in Los Angeles for about 16 months from the summer of 2018 until November 2019, when Ibrahimovi­c went back to Europe. While Zlatan was unable to carry the Galaxy to an MLS Cup title despite playing exceptiona­lly during two largely frustratin­g seasons, LeBron already won the Lakers’ 17th NBA title in his second season with the club.

They also share remarkable similariti­es as two astonishin­g athletes who have remained among the world’s best players deep into their 30s. The 36-yearold James is still one of the best all-around players in modern basketball, while the 39-year-old Ibrahimovi­c remains among Serie A’s scoring leaders with 14 goals in just 13 league games for Milan.

Dennis Schröder, the Lakers’ German point guard, gave his support to James and confirmed the obvious truth that Ibrahimovi­c’s attitude is decidedly not shared by many European athletes.

“Every athlete can use our platform and try to make change in this world,” Schröder said. “Zlatan, he’s a little different. Unique player, unique character.”

 ?? Mark J. Terrill The Associated Press ?? Lakers star LeBron James responded to criticism from Serie A soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c, who said that athletes shouldn’t speak out on social issues and just stick to the sports they’re playing.
Mark J. Terrill The Associated Press Lakers star LeBron James responded to criticism from Serie A soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c, who said that athletes shouldn’t speak out on social issues and just stick to the sports they’re playing.
 ?? Spada/LaPresse via AP ?? AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c, who complained a few years ago about racism in Sweden, spoke out against LeBron James and other American athletes for activism.
Spada/LaPresse via AP AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c, who complained a few years ago about racism in Sweden, spoke out against LeBron James and other American athletes for activism.

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