LeBron James says Trump should not be allowed to 'use sports to divide the country'

Donald Trump sparks protests during National Anthem in sportsIBT

LeBron James has praised NFL players for their stance against Donald Trump, insisting the US President will not be allowed to use sports to "divide" the country.

Last year then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, became the first player to take a knee during the US national anthem, in a bid to protest against a tide of racial injustice against African-Americans from police.

The issue reared its head again on Friday (23 September), when Trump suggested any player who refuses to stand during the anthem anthem "is a son of a bitch" who should be "fired". However, the words of the US President fell on deaf ears as players, coaches and staff across the country joined the protest, with over 200 players choosing to kneel, sit, pray or raise a clenched fist as the Star-Spangled Banner rang out at games over the weekend.

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The show of defiance actually began across the Atlantic, as 20 players knelt at Wembley, where the Jacksonville Jaguars took on the Baltimore Ravens.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Tennessee Titans and their opponents the Seattle Seahawks opted to stay in the dressing rooms for the anthem, with the exception of Steelers lineman and US Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva who stood in the tunnel.

"I salute the NFL, the coaches, the players, the owners, the fans - anyone who had an association with the NFL yesterday," James said at a pre-season media day.

"It was unbelievable, it was solidarity and there was no divide.

"That guy [Trump] continues to divide us as people, and the thing that frustrated me and p***** me off a little bit is the fact that he uses sports to try and divide us.

"Sport is so amazing, what it can do for everyone. No matter the shape, size, weight, ethnicity, religion or whatever [...] people find teams, players and colours because of sport. They just gravitate towards that."

Last week, James called Trump a "bum" on Twitter, after the US President said a White House invitation for Golden State Warriors' point guard Stephen Curry had been withdrawn.

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Every year, the team that has won the NBA title the previous season is invited to the White House - as are their counterparts from other sports - but Curry revealed he would not attend the meeting because of Trump's policies.

Trump then fired a riposte by withdrawing the invitation, only for James to point out on social media it was a hollow gesture as Curry had declined to attend the event anyway.

The president railed against the players' reaction on social media, claiming "the issue of kneeling has nothing do with race" and insisting the NFL's TV ratings had declined because fans disagreed with the protest.

However, James insisted he would not allow Trump to use the ongoing row to divide the country.

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"I'm not going to let one individual, no matter the power, no matter the impact he - or she - should have, ever use sport as a platform to divide us," he explained.

"How can we personally throughout everything that guy is doing - no matter if you voted for him or not and you have made a mistake - sit here and say 'I'm trying to make a difference'.

"Can I look myself in the mirror and say I want the best for the American people - no matter the skin colour, the race, how tall or athletic you are, whatever the case may be."

The three-time NBA champion and 13-time NBA All Star team pick also urged Americans not to allow Trump obfuscate what remains great about the US.

"We know this is the greatest country in the world - the Land of the Free - but we still have problems just like everybody else," he added.

"When we have those problems we can't forget how great we can be as a people, because the people run this country and not one individual - and damn sure not him.

"I will lend my voice, my passion and my money to the youth, to my inner city and those outside my inner city."

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