LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers to their 17th NBA championship title in style but that didn't impress President Donald Trump. In fact, the president, in a bitter show of displeasure, once again mocked the NBA star for being a spokesman for the Democratic Party, saying that his political messaging at the games was not helping the league much.
The President criticized and blamed James for the decline in NBA Finals television ratings, which are historically low. Trump has time and again shown his anger for athletes who advocate for social justice issues. This time it was James who drew the ire of the President for his political activism.
James Draws Trump's Ire
Given that the coronavirus pandemic has banned audiences and fans from the court this year due to social distancing measures, James and his teammates have found a unique way of attracting attention, that by kneeling over a Black Lives Matter decal and encouraging Americans to vote this forthcoming election. However, that hasn't gone down well with the Trump, who has blamed James and his colleagues for the declining viewership.
Trump appeared to hint that racial justice and political messaging at the games was doing the league "no favors." Sharing a link from right-wing outlet Breitbart, titled 'Viewership for NBA Finals Finale Crash Nearly 70%, Beaten by Random Sunday Night Football Game,' Trump tweeted: 'Maybe they were watching in China, but I doubt it. Zero interest!'
James captured his fourth NBA title and brought the Lakers their first championship since 2010. Trump's comments don't seem to have had much impact on the athlete. Interestingly, Trump's tweet came just 45 minutes after former President Barack Obama praised LeBron for winning his fourth NBA title.
'Proud of my friend @KingJames for his fourth title, fourth Finals MVP, and for not only living up to the hype after seventeen seasons, but surpassing it as an extraordinary leader both on the court and in the public arena fighting for education, social justice, and our democracy,' Obama tweeted on Monday.
Not the First Time
This isn't the first time that Trump has hit out at James. In a recent interview Trump blamed James for the decline in NBA Finals television ratings, which are historically low. "The NBA has become so political that nobody cares about it anymore," Trump said. "I don't even know who's playing in the finals. "I don't know anybody that's watching the NBA," he had said despite James leading his team to the finals.
This year only around six million viewers tuned into the finals compared to triple (18.34 million) that number in the pre-pandemic era. Interestingly, as Trump mentioned if people were watching the game in China, the country did air the game this time around after a hiatus with a spokesperson for the China Media Group saying the NBA "has made active efforts in supporting the Chinese people in fighting against the coronavirus epidemic."
That said, Trump has often blamed the players, especially James, for their political stand. In fact, in August he had said that it was 'disgraceful' that NBA players knelt during the national anthem to protest systemic racism.
Trump made James his target since then. Trump in his defense had said that he has done more for black people than any other leader, except for Lincoln who issued the emancipation proclamation. LeBron at that time had mocked Trump by saying 'You trying to make me laugh right now? I appreciate that.'
Thing have once become more bitter since then. Last week, Trump suggested the sports legend, who expressed support for Hillary Clinton in 2016, may be getting too much credit from those supporting racial equality.