AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic said athletes like Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James should stop getting involved in politics.
James, a four-time NBA champion, whom Ibrahimovic described as a phenomenal basketball player, has been one of the NBA’s leading voices against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.
James, a frequent critic of former US President Donald Trump, also helped form a group aimed at fighting the disenfranchisement of voters in predominantly black communities last year.
“I really like (James). It’s great, but I don’t like it when people with status talk about politics. Do what you are good at, ”Ibrahimovic told Uef and Discovery + in Sweden.
“I play football because I am the best at playing football, I am not a politician. If he had been a politician, he would be doing politics.
“This is the first mistake famous people make when they become famous: for me it is better to avoid certain topics and do what you do well, otherwise you risk doing something wrong.”
James’ long-standing activism on racial justice issues and his criticism of Trump led white Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham in 2018 to tell him and his partner Kevin Durant, a black NBA player, that ” they will shut up and dribble. “
The comment from Ibrahimovic, whose two-year stint with the LA Galaxy coincided with James’s time in Los Angeles, was criticized by American sprint great Michael Johnson.
“Okay Ibra, based on your position, @KingJames is excellent at basketball and shouldn’t voice his opinion on politics,” Johnson tweeted.
“You are really good at soccer, so you shouldn’t voice your opinion on LeBron’s use of his platform. Or your opinion on anything outside of football! “
James’ entry into the field of social justice has been careful and measured over the past decade: a 2012 tweet stating #WeAreTrayvonMartin; the I CAN’T BREATHE jersey worn before a 2014 game; opening a public school in his hometown of Akron.
But the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player winner has taken his activism to new heights since Trump began battling prominent black American athletes to score political points.
With the sports world paralyzed due to the coronavirus pandemic and amid unrest across the country over the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, James partnered with a group of prominent athletes and artists to launch More Than a Vote, a 501 (c) (4) nonprofit organization designed to inform, protect and attract African American voters.
“We never told anyone who to vote for or who not to vote for,” he said. “We never said anything about a candidate or another candidate. We just wanted people to exercise their opportunity to vote and create change.