By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James went after President Donald Trump in an emotional speech on Tuesday night, calling him the “so-called president” while calling for unity in light of the Charlottesville tragedy.
Standing on stage before students, parents and families connected to his foundation at the end of a daylong event at Cedar Point Amusement Park, James said he wanted to spend a moment addressing the weekend’s violent protests, where a woman was killed amid ugly clashes between far-right extremists and protesters out to stop them.
While holding his baby daughter, James turned his thoughts to the violence.
“I know there’s a lot of tragic things happening in Charlottesville (Virginia),” James said. “I just want to speak on it right now. I have this platform and I’m somebody that has a voice of command and the only way for us to get better as a society and for us to get better as people is love. And that’s the only way we’re going to be able to conquer something as one. It’s not about the guy that’s the so-called president of the United States, or whatever the case.”
Earlier in the day, the NBA superstar blasted Trump on Twitter after the president appeared to equate the actions of white supremacists and those protesting them.
James has been outspoken on his political beliefs in the past — he endorsed Hillary Clinton in last year’s election, introducing her at a rally in Cleveland just two days before she lost to Trump — and took advantage of his first public appearance since the NBA Finals to call out Trump’s actions.
“It’s not about a teacher that you don’t feel like cares about what’s going on with you every day,” James continued. “It’s not about people that you just don’t feel like want to give the best energy and effort to you. It’s about us. It’s about us looking in the mirror. Kids all the way up to the adults. All of us looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What can we do better to help change?’ And if we can all do that and give 110 percent, then that’s all you can ask for.
“So, shout out to the innocent people in Charlottesville (Virginia) and shout out to everybody across the world that just want to be great and just want to love. Thank you, and I love you all.”
James was joined on stage by his three children, singers Usher and Jordin Sparks, who performed during the event, and Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith.
The three-time champion flew to New York earlier Tuesday to play in pickup games with Warriors star Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks.
This isn’t the first time James has used his status to take on social issues — or take a swipe at Trump.
During the season, James was asked if the All-Star voting was “goofy” because players were involved in the balloting.
“There’s always goofy votes,” James quipped. “I mean, Donald Trump is our president.”
He has taken a far more serious tone on other matters. When he was with Miami, James and his teammates wore hooded sweatshirts to protest the deadly shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. He also wore an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt when the Cavaliers were in Brooklyn as a tribute to Eric Garner, who had been choked to death in a struggle with police.
During last year’s ESPYs, James stood on stage with Anthony and fellow All-Stars Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade to demand social change.
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