The AC Milan forward said athletes should “do what you’re good at” but the basketball icon has accused him of hypocrisy and says he won’t be silenced
LeBron James has hit back at Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s claim that athletes like him should keep out of politics and stick to their sport.
The AC Milan forward called out the basketball icon on Friday, saying that he was taking advantage of his status.
The Los Angeles Lakers star, famously told to “shut up and dribble” by television presenter Laura Ingraham, has been outspoken about non-sporting issues throughout his career and has now felt compelled to respond to the Swedish striker’s comments.
What did Ibrahimovic say?
“[LeBron] is phenomenal at what he’s doing, but I don’t like it when people have some kind of status, they go and do politics at the same time,” Ibrahimovic told Discovery+ in Sweden. “Do what you’re good at. Do the category you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football.
“I don’t do politics. If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they become in a certain status. Stay out of it. Just do what you do best because it doesn’t look good.”
How has James responded?
“I will never shut up about things that are wrong,” James said in a press conference. “I preach about my people and I preach about equality. Social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression, things that go on in our community.
“I was part of my community, I’ve seen the things that are going on. I have a group of 300-plus kids in my school that are going through the same thing and they need a voice. I am their voice and I use my platform to shed light on things that are going on, not only in my community but around this country and around the world.
“There is no way I will ever just stick to sports because I know with this platform, how powerful my voice is. You can ask Renee Montgomery (former WNBA player and now part-owner of Atlanta Dream) if I had just shut up and dribbled. Seeing that beautiful black woman today become a part of an ownership group now with the Atlanta Dream.
“It’s funny that he’s (Ibrahimovic) said that because I believe back in 2018 he’s the same guy who said that when he was back in Sweden, he was talking about the same things. Because his last name wasn’t a certain last name, he felt like there was some racism going on while he was out on the pitch… right?
“He did say that, right? Yeah. I thought he said that. I speak from a very educated mind. I’m the wrong guy to go at because I do my homework.”
What has James said about politics?
James was named The Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year in 2020 after leading the Lakers to the NBA title, marking the fourth time he’d claimed the award.
However, he went on to say he was more proud of what he did off the court in 2020 as part of the drive to support Black Lives Matter and other organizations fighting for equality.
“I still know what I do on the floor and obviously, I give everything to the game,” James told the AP.
“But I can make a greater impact off the floor right now, more than I can on the floor. And I want to continue to inspire people with the way I play the game of basketball. But there’s so many more things that I can do off the floor to help cultivate people, inspire people, bring people together, empower them.”
James’ I Promise School, which he opened in 2018, now has over 450 students in third through sixth grades while his affordable housing project for 50 families also recently broke new ground.
The Lakers star’s More Than a Vote campaign drew more than 42,000 volunteers to work at polling stations in November as James looked to aid black voters – and young voters – in getting to the polls.