President Donald Trump took a cheap shot at LeBron James in a tweet Friday night, causing Twitter to rush to the basketball superstar’s defense.
In an interview on Monday with CNN anchor Don Lemon, James discussed the impact of sports and how it brings people together. He said he felt Trump was “using sports to kind of divide us.”
Friday night — four days after the interview — Trump tweeted: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2018
Trump’s “I like Mike” comment was a reference to Michael Jordan who many observers believe is the greatest basketball player of all time, while others contend James — who recently signed a four-year, $153 million contract to play for the Los Angeles Lakers — is the most dominant player in NBA history.
On Saturday afternoon, Jordan entered the debate, expressing his support for James. Through a spokesperson, Jordan told NBC News: “I support LJ. He’s doing an amazing job for his community.”
NEW: Jordan sides with James over Trump tweet. NBA legend Michael Jordan tells NBC News through a spokesperson: "I support LJ. He’s doing an amazing job for his community.”
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) August 4, 2018
Long-time television personality Montel Williams, in response to Trump’s insults, explained in a tweet that James is “well on his way to being a SELF MADE billionaire without the asterix [sic] of having inherited and having been born on 3rd base.”
Williams also defended Lemon, an anchor for CNN who earlier this year began his broadcast with this statement: “This is CNN Tonight. I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist.”
Lemon accused Trump of racism after the president disparaged immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations, which the president called “shithole countries.”
Williams tweeted: “I’ve known @donlemon a long time. He’s many things — ‘dumb’ isn’t one.”
What responsible & right-thinking adult can point to @realDonaldTrump as a role model for our youth? Whenever he spews lies, insults, and polarizing hate speech against fellow Americans, think of its harmful impact on our young people and the way they talk, act, & treat others. https://t.co/S8sPpydvt9
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) August 4, 2018
Condemnation directed at the president for slighting the basketball star was loud and came from a variety of critics.
Former CIA Director John Brennan expressed disgust at Trump’s tweet, writing on Twitter early Saturday that no “right-thinking adult can point to @realDonaldTrump as a role model for our youth.”
“Whenever he spews lies, insults, and polarizing hate speech against fellow Americans, think of its harmful impact on our young people and the way they talk, act, & treat others.”
Since Trump took over as president in January 2017, James hasn’t shied away from criticizing the president’s policies and his shameful personal attacks. In September 2017, James called Trump a “bum” for rescinding his invitation to the Golden State Warriors to celebrate their championship with a visit to the White House.
“Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!” James tweeted at the time.
In June, while still a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, James said neither his team nor the rival Warriors would accept an invitation to the White House after winning the NBA championship. Trump later said neither team would be invited.
Another CNN anchor, Jake Tapper, cited survey data that shows the public doesn’t believe Trump is a good role model and that he has major leadership deficiencies.
Q poll on POTUS, June:
69 – 27 % say he is not a good role model for children;
56 – 41 % say he does not have good leadership skills;
64 – 32 % say he is not level-headed;
61 – 35 % say he does not share their values.https://t.co/tdDwUAnLmy https://t.co/n6MK4DHNv3
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 4, 2018
In a Saturday morning tweet responding to Trump’s attack on James and Lemon, Tapper noted that Quinnipiac University poll from January found that 69 percent of respondents said Trump is not a good role model for children, while only 27 percent believe he is. In the same poll, 64 percent said Trump is not level-headed versus only 32 percent of the respondents saying he is.
Amanda Carpenter, a conservative commentator for CNN, wasn’t happy with how Trump went after both James and Lemon, especially after what was discussed between the two African Americans in Monday’s interview.
During the interview, James and Lemon talked about how people still hurl slurs at them “no matter how much they achieved in life,” Carpenter tweeted.
“Fame and fortune does not immunize them from such terrible treatment,” she wrote, adding that Trump’s late-Friday night tweet “proves what a necessary interview it was.”
The most insightful part of the interview was when Don and Lebron talked about how people would hurl slurs at them no matter how much they achieved in life. Fame and fortune does not immunize them from such terrible treatment. This tweet proves what a necessary interview it was. https://t.co/N90s9oF67p
— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) August 4, 2018
Jackie Calmes, the White House editor for the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau, wrote in a Saturday morning tweet that the man Trump “assailed last night as not smart just this week opened a school for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron and promised college scholarships.”
“The Trump Foundation might learn something from the LeBron James Family Foundation,” Calmes added.
The man you assailed last night as not smart just this week opened a school for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, and promised college scholarships. The Trump Foundation might learn something from the LeBron James Family Foundation. https://t.co/DgH6q9lC6p
— Jackie Calmes (@jackiekcalmes) August 4, 2018
And Tommy Beer, an NBA analyst for several media outlets, used Trump’s tweet to compare the basketball star’s growth as a person to the president’s.
“LeBron: Born poor. Homeless as a kid. Marries high school sweetheart. Become rich. Donates $41M to build a school,” Beer tweeted. “Donald: Born rich. Dad gives him millions. Files for bankruptcy. Divorced twice. Scandals! Sad! Fined $25M for defrauding students.”
Ok, I’ll take the bait.
LeBron: Born poor. Homeless as a kid. Marries high school sweetheart. Become rich. Donates $41M to build a school.
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) August 4, 2018
As of Saturday morning, James had not responded to the president’s tweet.
This article was updated to add a statement by Michael Jordan expressing support for LeBron James.