With the opening of his I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, NBA star LeBron James sat with CNN’s Don Lemon for an in-depth interview. During the conversation at the institution for local at-risk students, the two discussed President Donald Trump, why the Nike athlete opened the school and Trayvon Martin.
Here are six key takeaways in the basketball great’s words.
On the Purpose of the I Promise School
“When I did go to school, or when I was playing little league sports, being around kids and being around people that had fun and kind of speak the same language as you, it allows you to kind of escape away from the drugs and the violence and the gunshots and the things that go on, on an everyday basis. That’s what we’re here for right now, that’s why I’m opening this school, to be able to get these kids’ minds away from, and their bodies away from [the negativity]. We even made the hours of being in school longer, from 8 to, instead of 3, to 5. We want them here so we can let them know not only do we want you here, but we really do care, we really do care what happens with you.”
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On How President Trump Is Dividing America
“When you a part of sports, it brings so much camaraderie and so much fun. We’re in a position right now in America, more importantly, where this race thing has taken over, because 1) I believe our president is kind of trying to divide us — he’s dividing us. And what I’ve noticed over the last few months [is] that he’s kind of used sport to divide us, and that’s something I can’t relate to because I knew that sport was the first time I ever was around someone white and I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them and they got an opportunity to learn about me and we became very good friends, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is all because of sports.'”
“I believe he uses anything that’s popular to try to negate people from thinking about the positive things that they could actually be doing and to try to get our minds to not be as sharp as possible right then. Either from football players kneeling — you look at [Colin] Kaepernick who was protesting something he believed in and he did it in the most calm fashion possible, very respectful, he did all his due diligence, he was knowledgable about it and everyone knew why he did it. You look at all the NFL players that are still kneeling and things of that nature, you look at Steph [Curry], you look at Marshawn Lynch, you look at all these instances where he’s trying to divide our sport, but at the end of the day, sport is the reason why we all come together.”
On Speaking One-on-One With President Trump
“I would never sit across from him. I’d sit across from Barack though.”
On Running Against President Trump if No One Else Would
“Well in that case, I may.”
On Trayvon Martin
“Having kids of my own, having boys of my own, it hit home to see and to learn the story and to think that if my boy left home and he [may] never return. That kind of hit a switch for me. From that point on, I knew that my voice and my platform had to be used for more than just sports.”
On the Challenges of Being Black in America
“The best way to tell [kids] to keep going is that no matter how successful you could become, no matter who you are, when you’re an African American kid — male or female — you’re always going to be going against obstacles. There’s either one or two things you could do: You could allow it to affect you and for you to degrade, or you could allow it to empower you even more and to rise above it. And if you look at some of the greatest leaders of our time, if you look at Muhammad Ali, you look at Dr. Martin Luther King, all the adversity they went through, they never let them down it, they always used it to say, ‘OK, this is even more motivation, this is even more of a way for me to be more powerful.’ They’re the reason we’re here today.”
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