Leadership

LeBron James' Charlottesville comments are just the latest way he's fighting for racial equality

LeBron James
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LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers player LeBron James is no stranger to speaking his mind. On Tuesday, he expressed his thoughts on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

The Unite the Right rally, protesting the removal of a Confederate statue, left one counterprotester dead and many injured. Supporters and counterprotesters chanted and threw punches and objects, according to the Associated Press.

At an event for the LeBron James Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on educating children, James encouraged the students in attendance to stand up for their beliefs, according to the Associated Press.

"I know there's a lot of tragic things happening in Charlottesville," James says. "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."

The athlete then mentioned President Donald Trump, who has received criticism for not explicitly admonishing neo-Nazis, KKK members and white supremacists at the protest.

"It's not about the guy that's the so-called president of the United States, or whatever the case," says James. "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."

This is not the first time James, who was ranked as one of the most influential and popular athletes by ESPN, has publicly taken a stand against racial inequality. Here are five others:

May 2017

During the NBA finals, the basketball icon's Los Angeles home was spray-painted with racist graffiti.

At a press conference scheduled for the opening of the finals, James discussed the challenges of being black in America.

"No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is — it's tough," says James. "And we got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America."

James expressed relief that his family was unharmed but told reporters that if the vandalism could create discourse around the ongoing racial divide he would gladly go through it again.

"If this incident that happened to me and my family today can keep the conversation going and can shed light on us trying to figure out a way to keep progressing and not regressing, then I'm not against it happening to us again," says James.

July 2016

Last year, James tweeted an article about Philando Castile, a black man who was shot and killed by police in Minnesota after a routine traffic stop. In the tweet, James showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and said that he was sickened.

"This article says it all man! Sickens me and I shed multiple tears about it all," says James. He followed up with two single tweets:

December 2014

The Cleveland Cavaliers star wore a T-shirt with the words "I Can't Breathe" while warming up for a game against the Brooklyn Nets.

"I can't breathe" were the final words uttered by Eric Garner, whose death in July at the hands of a New York Police Department officer sparked national outrage.

Former President Barack Obama applauded James' decision to wear the shirt in an interview with People Magazine.

"You know, I think LeBron did the right thing," he tells People. "LeBron is an example of a young man who has, in his own way and in a respectful way, tried to say, 'I'm part of this society, too' and focus attention."

April 2014

After an audio recording of Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, making racist remarks became publicized, James told ESPN "it's very disrespectful and it's appalling."

"There's no room for Donald Sterling in the NBA — there is no room for him," James says.

Donald Sterling
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Donald Sterling

James called on the NBA to take a stand against Sterling and said that basketball players are the "model citizen of all sports" and are the "most recognizable figures."

"Obviously, if the reports are true, it's unacceptable in our league," James tells ESPN. "It doesn't matter, white, black or Hispanic — all across the races, it's unacceptable. As the commissioner of our league, they have to make a stand. They have to be very aggressive with it. I don't know what it will be, but we can't have that in our league."

March 2012

James suited up with his close friend Dwayne Wade and several Miami Heat players for a photo before a game against the Detroit Pistons.

In the picture, the players wore hooded sweatshirts to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen who was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when police found his body.

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See also:

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg speaks out on white supremacists

What to do if your boss bashes you in front of other employees

6 things you may not know about Trump's new interim White House communications director