Protests: LeBron James’ remarks take on Trump

LeBron James referred to President Trump as a “bum” in a tweet on Saturday, and the NBA superstar wasn’t about to back down while speaking to reporters two days later.

“The people run this country, not one individual — and damn sure not him,” James said of Trump during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ media day on Monday. “As I have this platform and I have a way to inspire … I will lend my voice, I will lend my passion and my money, I will lend my resources to my youth and my inner city and outside of my inner city to let these kids know that there is hope, there’s greater walks of life, and not one individual, no matter if it’s the president of the United States or if it’s someone in your household, can stop your dreams from becoming reality.”

On Friday, Golden State star Stephen Curry said he didn’t want to go to the White House to celebrate the Warriors’ NBA title, as is customary with most championship teams. Trump tweeted the next day that the “invitation is withdrawn!

James tweeted his reaction to the president’s words later that day:

Also this weekend, Trump commented that NFL owners should fire players who do not stand for the national anthem. Players around the league responded Sunday with various demonstrations and displays of unity.

James reflected on the president in light of the weekend’s events while speaking on Monday.

“He doesn’t understand the power that he has for being the leader of this beautiful country,” James said of Trump. “He doesn’t understand how many kids, no matter the race look up to the President of the United States for guidance, for leadership, for words of encouragement. He doesn’t understand that, and that’s what makes me more sick than anything. ...

“We are at a time when the most powerful position in the world has the opportunity to bring us close together as a people and inspire youth and put youth at ease by saying it’s OK for me to walk down the street and not be judged by the color of my skin or because of my race. … And he doesn’t even care.”

LeBron not alone on media day

At Washington Wizards media day, guard Bradley Beal called Trump a “clown” and said he’s “not a leader.” In Detroit, coach Stan Van Gundy said it’s “unfortunate” that Trump “has made our national anthem a divisive issue.”

Trump said last week that NFL owners should fire any player who refuses to stand for the anthem.

Villanueva explains

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva said he had no interest in becoming a symbol, no matter how it may have looked Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago, where he stood alone as the flag waved, the national anthem played and his teammates remained in a tunnel behind him.

The West Point graduate, former Army Ranger and Afghanistan war veteran said he wasn’t making a statement and just wanted to get a glimpse of the American flag.

“It’s a very embarrassing part on my end,” Villanueva said Monday. “When everyone sees images of me standing by myself, everybody thinks the team and the Steelers are not behind me and that is absolutely wrong. It’s quite the opposite.”

Villanueva had the most popular-selling jersey on the NFL’s website Monday, and on social media he was hailed as a hero.

Brady disagrees with Trump

Elsewhere in the NFL, New England quarterback Tom Brady, who in the past has called Trump a “good friend,” said the president’s comments were “just divisive” and told Boston's WEEI-FM that he “certainly” disagrees with them.

And the Dallas Cowboys made a show of unity before their Monday night game at Arizona. All the players knelt with owner Jerry Jones and his family before a giant American flag was unfurled, drawing some boos from Cardinals fans. They rose, arm in arm, just before the anthem was performed.

NASCAR praised

Trump on Monday lauded NASCAR because no drivers, crew or team members protested during the national anthem before a weekend race at New Hampshire Motorspeedway.

“So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag — they said it loud and clear!” Trump tweeted.

Several NASCAR team owners and executives had said Sunday they wouldn’t want anyone in their organizations to protest. Richard Childress, who was Dale Earnhardt’s longtime team owner, said of protesting: “It’ll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus.”

Childress said he told his team that “anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.”

Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty’s sentiments took it a step further, saying: “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

charles.schilken@latimes.com

Twitter: @chewkiii

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