LeBron James on police shootings: ‘We are scared as Black people in America’
‘If you’re sitting here and telling me that there was no way to subdue [Jacob Blake] or detain him ... you’re lying to every African American, every Black person,’ James said.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. —The language and tone fully captured LeBron James’ frustration with police killing unarmed Black people.
“It’s just [expletive]up in our community,” James said. “I know people get tired of hearing me say it. But we are scared as Black people in America. Black men, Black women, Black kids, we are terrified.”
James watched with horror the footage that showed police officers shooting Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, seven times. James said he’s thankful “through the grace of God that he’s still living” and offered support and prayers for the Blake family.
James also expressed frustration with yet another incident of police brutality toward unarmed Black people.
“If you’re sitting here and telling me that there was no way to subdue that gentleman or detain him or just before the firing of guns, then you’re sitting here and lying to not only me,” James said, “but you’re lying to every African American, every Black person in the community because we see it over and over and over.”
They saw it in 2013 when George Zimmermanshot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin despite being unarmed and wearing a hoodie in his Florida neighborhood. They saw it in 2014 when a police officer choked and killed Eric Garner. They saw it in March when three police officers mistook Breonna Taylor as a suspect for an ex-boyfriend’s laundering operation and killed her while she was asleep. They saw it on Memorial Day weekend when a police officer knelt and killed George Floyd. And they saw it on Sunday when Kenosha police responded to a domestic incident by shooting Blake seven times as he was walking unarmed toward his car.
“There were multiple moments where, if they wanted to, they could’ve tackled him, they could’ve grabbed him,” James said. “They could’ve done that. Why does it always have to get to a point where we see the guns firing and his family is there and the kids are there. It’s in broad daylight. If that video is not being taken by that person across the street, do we even know if we even see that video?”
James sounded annoyed, exasperated and tired as he spoke for nearly 15 minutes following the Lakers’ 135-115 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. He had wanted to relish the Lakers’ Game 4 win that gives them a 3-1 series lead. He had wanted to honor former Lakers legend Kobe Bryant as the team honored what would have been his 42nd birthday Sunday if not for his passing seven months ago.
“I can’t even enjoy a playoff win right now, which is the sad part,” James said.
James was among the first athletes to speak out about Floyd’s killing. He had devoted several post-game press conferences to calling for police to be held accountable for Taylor’s killing. On Monday, James detailed how Blake’s shooting captures why many in the Black community distrust law enforcement.
“You have no idea how that cop that day left the house,” James said. “You don’t know if he woke up on this side of the bed. You don’t know if he woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You don’t know if he had an argument at home with his significant other. You don’t know if one of his kids said something to him and he left the house steaming. Or maybe he just left the house saying that today is going to be the end for one of these Black people. That’s what it feels like.”
No wonder James said, “I got nothing nice to say about those cops at all.”
Moments later, James said there are reforms he thinks need to happen so that police are held accountable when they kill unarmed Black people.
“I don’t want to sit here and say, ‘I know what should be done,’ ” he said. “But I did see one thing about the level of time in the academy before you become a police officer. We got kids that’s going to college three and four years, six years to get their master’s, or they even go again, and they still didn’t even get the opportunity at the workspace, or the job that they actually want to get. But we have people going into the academy who’s becoming police officers in a year or two.”
Also, he said: “Firearms are a huge issue in America. I don’t know how you clean that up. I’m not saying that I’ve got all the answers, but guns are a huge issue in America. They’re not used for just hunting that a lot of people do for sport. Right now, for Black people right now, when you’re hunting, we think you’re hunting us. Unfortunately, there’s just too many killings going on. Not only from the cops, but we also have our own thing that we got to deal with, that we gotta get better at as well, with Black-on-Black crime.”
James founded “More than a Vote,” an organization aimed to improve voter registration and reduce voter suppression in the Black community. James said the organization has partnered with the NAACP to enroll young people as poll workers to protect the elderly from the coronavirus. He said changes “doesn’t only end in November, but it starts there” on Election Day.
“Being organized and having a plan and keeping our feet on the gas pedal is something that we’ve got to do,” James said. “I know I’m all over the place, but my emotions are all over the place as well.”
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