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‘Our President Is Trying to Divide Us.’ LeBron James Says Sports Should Be Used to Unite

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LeBron James thinks President Donald Trump is using sports to exacerbate racial divides. Speaking in an interview with CNN after joining the L.A. Lakers and opening a school in his native Akron, Ohio, James said the president is using athletes and athletics to split the country.

“You know, we are in a position right now in America… where this race thing [has] taken over, you know, and because – one, because I believe our president is kind of trying to divide us,” he said on Monday.

“What I noticed over the last few months [is] that he’s kind of used sports to kind of divide us and that’s something that I can’t relate to,” he added.

He cited instances like Colin Kaepernick‘s kneeling protest movement during the national anthem and Stephen Curry’s refusal to visit the White House as acts of peaceful dissent that have been warped by the president into an indictment of the state of America.

“I can’t sit back and say nothing,” said the four-time NBA MVP.

“Sports was the first time I was ever around someone white,” he said. “I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got the opportunity to learn about me… And I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is all because of sports.'”

But before organized basketball transformed his life, James said invested teachers helped him go from a fourth grader who missed 83 days of the school year due to difficult family circumstances, to a kid with big dreams.

He’s hoping to give 240 at-risk kids in his hometown that same support by opening the IPROMISE elementary school. Teaming up with the Akron Public School System, James invested much of his own money into the project, and called its opening one of the greatest moments in his life.

“What I want to happen is for every kid that walks through those doors… to be inspired, to come away with something, something where they can give back and it doesn’t matter – it can be anything,” he said. “For kids in general, all they want to know is that someone cares and when they walk through that door they know that someone cares.”

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Write to Laignee Barron at Laignee.Barron@time.com