LOS ANGELES – LeBron James responded to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s criticism of his political activism by promising he would never shut up and dribble.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar also pointed out that Ibrahimovic clearly didn’t feel the same about social injustices when the footballer called out racism in his native Sweden just three years ago.
The AC Milan forward and former LA Galaxy star slammed James and other socially conscious athletes Thursday in an interview with Discovery Plus. Ibrahimovic called it a “mistake” on the part of James and other athletes to get involved in political causes, saying they should “do what you do best because it doesn’t look like good”.
James responded forcefully to Ibrahimovic’s position after the Lakers’ 102-93 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
“I will never be silent about things that are wrong,” said James, who has 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
“I preach on my people and I preach on equality, social injustice, racism, the systematic suppression of voters, the things that are happening in our community,” added James. “I know what’s going on again, because I have a group of over 300 kids at my school going through the same thing, and they need a voice, and I am their voice. I will use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that is happening in this country and in the world. There is no way I am sticking to sports because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice is.
James funds the I Promise School in his native Akron, Ohio. The third-highest goalscorer in NBA history also supports numerous initiatives aimed at social justice, the franchise and other progressive causes.
James also clarified that he was aware of comments made in 2018 by Ibrahimovic, the Swedish son of a Bosnian father and Croatian mother.
“This is the guy who said in Sweden, he was talking about the same things, because his last name was not a last name (traditional Swedish), he felt like there was racism when he was in the field, “James said. “I’m talking about a very educated mind. I’m kind of the wrong guy to talk to, because I’m doing my homework.
Indeed, Ibrahimovic told Canal Plus that “undercover racism” had led the media and the Swedish public to treat it with less respect and reverence: “It exists, I am 100% sure, because I am neither Andersson nor Svensson. If I was like that, believe me, they would defend me even if I rob a bank.
James and Ibrahimovic overlapped in Los Angeles for about 16 months between the summer of 2018 and November 2019, when Ibrahimovic returned to Europe. While Zlatan has been unable to carry the Galaxy to an MLS Cup title despite playing exceptionally two largely frustrating seasons, LeBron has already won the Lakers’ 17th NBA title in his second season with the club.
They also share remarkable similarities as two amazing athletes who remained among the best players in the world until their 30s. James, 36, is still one of modern basketball’s best players, while Ibrahimovic, 39, remains among Serie A’s top scorers with 14 goals in just 13 league games for Milan.
German Lakers point guard Dennis Schröder gave his support to James and confirmed the obvious truth that Ibrahimovic’s attitude is decidedly not shared by many European athletes.
“Every athlete can use our platform and try to make change in this world,” said Schröder. “Zlatan, he’s a little different. Unique player, unique character. “