On Wednesday. Donald Trump told the media that he “turned off” the NBA after watching players kneel during the National anthem. Later that evening Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James told the media that the NBA would not miss Trump.
“I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership, him viewing the game,” James said after the Lakers’ 105-86 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. “And that’s all I got to say.”
James attempted to keep his comment brief acknowledging that he knew how things would be blown up if he engaged in a back and forth with Trump.
“I already know where this could go, where it could lead to for tomorrow for me,” he said. “I’m not going to get into it.”
James, who is spearheading a voting rights organization, More Than a Vote, did use the opportunity to speak about the upcoming presidential election and also promote the game that Trump has abandoned.
“I think our game is in a beautiful position and we have fans all over the world and our fans not only love the way we play the game, we try to give it back to them with our commitment to the game. But also respect what else we try to bring to the game and acknowledge it — what’s right and what’s wrong,” James stated. “And I hope everyone, no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter the size, will see what leadership that we have at the top in our country and understand that November is right around the corner and it’s a big moment for us as Americans. If we continue to talk about, ‘We want better, we want change, we have an opportunity to do that. But the game will go on without his eyes on it. I can sit here and speak for all of that love the game of basketball: We could not care less.”
LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ also commented on the subject earlier Wednesday. “Well we lost one guy,” Rivers said when he was asked about Trump refusing to watch the NBA. “I mean, so what. Like really, I don’t even care. We know that justice is on our side. Right?”
Rivers then noted the hat he was wearing with the word “vote” on it. “And this hat that I am wearing is what our president is trying to get us to not do,” Rivers said. “Which I think is just as disgraceful.”
Almost every player, coach, staff member, and referee have taken a knee in unison in front of the “Black Lives Matter” message printed on the courts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex when the anthem has been played before games.
“When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and national anthem, what I do personally is turn off the game,” Trump told “Fox & Friends. “I think it’s disgraceful. We work with [the NBA], we worked with them very hard trying to get open. I was pushing for them to get open. Then I see everybody kneeling during the anthem. That’s not acceptable to me. When I see them kneeling during the game, I just turn off the game. I have no interest in the game. Let me tell you this, plenty of other people out there, too.”
Trump went on to suggest that the NBA’s popularity is being hurt by others like him, who have decided not to watch because of players taking a knee.
“The ratings for the basketball are way down, as you know,” Trump said. “I hear some others are way down, including baseball. We have to stand up for our flag, stand up for our country. A lot of people agree with me. If I’m wrong, I’m going to lose an election. That’s OK with me. I will always stand for our flag.”
However, Trump’s statements about ratings are inaccurate. The NBA saw an increase in ratings last week. The two games featured on opening night “that aired across TNT and streaming platforms scored an average audience of 2.9 million viewers — a 109% increase above the average viewership for an NBA game during the 2019-20 season. Friday’s Houston Rockets-Dallas Mavericks game telecast on ESPN drew 1.7 million viewers — an increase of 15% over ESPN’s regular-season average” reported ESPN.
Shortly after the Lakers kneeled during the anthem before playing the Clippers on opening night, James stated that the NBA’s demonstration was in harmony with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel. He stressed that the purpose was to highlight injustice and not reject patriotism.
“You go back and look at any of his postgame interviews when he talked about why he was kneeling, it had absolutely nothing to do about the flag, had absolutely nothing to do about the soldiers, the men and women that keep our land free,” James stated during an interview last week. “He explained that, and the ears were uncomfortable. People never listened. They refused to listen, and I did. And a lot of my people in the Black community did listen, and we just thank him for sacrificing everything that he did.”
James and Trump have exchanged words in the past. Back in 2017, James referred to Trump as a “so-called president” and Trump responded by calling James a “bum.” In 2018 Trump implied that he liked Michael Jordan better than James.