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LeBron James defends NFL protests: ‘It’s not about the disrespect of our flag’

Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images
Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images

(CLEVELAND) — NBA All-Star LeBron James spoke to the press on Monday following Sunday’s protests around the NFL, in which many players took a knee during the national anthem in support of equality.

“It’s powerful what all these athletes are doing,” James said. “It’s not about the disrespect of our flag and the military that’s made this world free.”

He added: “It’s about equality.”

The peaceful protests that the Cleveland Cavaliers star was referring to took place on Sunday, after President Donald Trump called for the NFL to “fire or suspend” those who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” Trump tweeted on Sunday, which followed similar comments he made Friday in Huntsville, Alabama.

James commented on the support that NFL players got not only from teammates but from team owners as well, some of whom also took the field Sunday in solidarity. He said what Trump said over the weekend “frustrated me.”

“He used the sports platform to divide us. Sports is so amazing, what sports can do for everyone, no matter shape, size, race; brings people together like no other. I’m not going to let one individual no matter the power, the impact he or she should have ever use sport as a platform to divide us,” he said. “The people run this country, not one person. And damn sure not him.”

And while James hasn’t considered taking a knee when the NBA’s regular season starts up again in a couple of weeks, he said he will continue to speak out and educate the people of Ohio.

“I’m doing OK for myself, my family is doing OK,” he said. “Even if we weren’t doing OK financially, I’d still be trying to find a way to inspire the youth. … Personally, my voice is more important than my knee.”

But James didn’t take anything away from the movement that former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started last pre-season, when he was the first to take a knee during the national anthem. In fact, he wishes he could hire Kaepernick.

“I salute Colin for being as powerful as he was,” he said. “I wish I owned an NFL team right now. I’d sign him today.”

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