NBA star LeBron James would never sit across from President Trump, but he would sit down with “Barack.” In an interview on CNN Tonight, host Don Lemon asked the basketball player what he would say to the current President if he were sitting in the room. James claimed that it would never happen.
The interview covered multiple topics, ranging from race relations in America to the main focus, James’ new school. The public school, named the “I Promise School,” opens this fall and will host 240 at-risk children in Akron, Ohio. James has donated extensively to his new public school in order to provide each student a bike, extracurriculars, a food bank, and services such as a job placement program for parents.
In the past, James has been ridiculed for his political hot takes. Laura Ingraham even told him once to “shut up and dribble.” Lemon prodded James about whether he would consider a presidential run if no one else would. The professional athlete responded: “Well, in that case I may. If they had no one, I mean, I believe there's some people out there, I hope. Let's see first. Let's see first.” James also felt that the president was trying to divide America, even prompting a correction from Lemon:
JAMES: You know, we are in a position right now in America more importantly where this whole -- this race thing is taking over, you know. And because one because I believe our president is kind of trying to divide us. But I think--
LEMON: Kind of?
JAMES: Yes. He is. He is. Not only is he kind of. He's dividing us, and what I noticed over the last few months that he's kind of used sport to kind of divide us, and that's something that I can't relate to.
However, despite all of James’ issues with the way he perceives the country, he refused to harbor the idea that a sit down with the president would be a good thing. For someone who considers themselves knowledgeable enough to comment on politics, he sure doesn’t see the benefit in reaching across the aisle. Lemon never bothered to challenge him on that point.
Read the full transcript from the 14 minute long interview that took place on July 30th below:
CNN Tonight with Don Lemon
10:01:50 PM EST
DON LEMON: Thank you.
LEBRON JAMES: Thanks for having me.
LEMON: Everyone who knows I'm doing this says much respect, much respect for I promised. But you have so much going on. Why do you want to do this?
JAMES: I mean, the kids talk to me. Either verbally or I could hear their mental. I am one of them. Not too far removed. So it wasn't even a question. It was -- it happened organically.
LEMON: You just did it. You figured that this was the best thing for you to do. Are you nervous about this? Because I remember when Oprah was opening a school, she was like it's such a big responsibility. I don't think I've ever been this nervous about anything, I've felt this much level of responsibility.
JAMES: It's not that I'm nervous. I'm more excited about this. I'm truly excited and truly humbled and blessed that first of all, the Akron public school system my hometown even, you know, did this joint venture with us that allowed us to even make something like this possible. And then not just my support system and my foundation. You know, Michelle Campbell, first of all, the number one point person in my foundation. They brought this whole thing together and brought it to me. And I was like, absolutely.
LEMON: A few have helped.
JAMES: Absolutely. You can't get nowhere in life without help.
LEMON: Without help. You were I think it was a third grader who interviewed you for teen Vogue, right?
LEMON: And asked you about all the challenges and about the single mom.
LEMON: Right? And I relate to that because I grew up with a single mom who is my hero. Your mom is your hero.
LEMON: Is that one of the reasons this is important to you?
JAMES: Absolutely. It's one of the huge reasons that it's important. Because everyday struggle me and my mom had to go through at that age. You know, being in the third or fourth grade. And for us to be in a position where we can bring like this into fruition and then see stories of kids that's going through the same thing that I went through, it makes it even more like yes, we did this. This is why we should have did it.
LEMON: But how do you conquer those fears? Jaden was his name, he talked about hearing gunshots and that sort of things, walking through being tempted by drugs and all those things. How do you think they -- how do you get them to understand that that's not the path that they have to take?
JAMES: I think being in a support system and that's what this is all about. You know, I think for me, when I did go to school, or when I was playing little league sports, you know, being around kids and being around people that have fun and kind of speak the same language as you, it allows you to kind of escape away from the drugs and the violence and the gunshots and things that go on, on, you know, on everyday basis, and that's what we're here for right now. That's why I'm opening the school to be able to get these kids minds away from and their body from -- we even -- we even, you know, made the hours of being in school longer from eight instead of three to five.
LEMON: Yes, we say that's a long time.
JAMES: yes, we want them here, you know, so we can let them know not only do we want you here, but we really do care. We really do about what happens with you.
LEMON: Well, you and people say he's an athlete, right. Athletics are big, but this is a STEM school. It's science, mathematics and reading.
JAMES: Yes. All of that. Math, reading, social studies, all the way down to gym class, to music, arts, everything.
LEMON: It's holistic.
LEMON: Yes, that's important. Are athletics important to these kids or do you think it's their minds right now?
JAMES: I think both. I think athletics are important but also their mind. I think both. I think it just plays -- it bring -- when you're part of sports and you're part of -- it just brings so much camaraderie and so much fun. You know, we are in a position right now in America more importantly where this whole -- this race thing is taking over, you know. And because one because I believe our president is kind of trying to divide us. But I think--
LEMON: Kind of?
JAMES: Yes. He is. He is. Not only is he kind of. He's dividing us, and what I noticed over the last few months that he's kind of used sport to kind of divide us, and that's something that I can't relate to. Because I know that sport was the first time I ever was around someone white. You know? And I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got an opportunity to learn about me, and we became very good friends, and I was like, wow, this is all because of sports. And sports has never been something that divide people. It's always been something that brings someone together.
LEMON: Do you remember that any of your first experience is around someone who was different than you or someone who was white because that was through sports?
LEMON: Do you remember what it was and what was your reaction?
JAMES: It was different. I mean, they, first of all, from -- you know, they ate dinner at a different hour than I've ever ate dinner before.
LEMON: Like earlier?
JAMES: Yes. Like supper at 6.30 in the afternoon.
JAMES: I thought it was the afternoon. They called it the evening time. It was the first time I ever seen a pantry. You understand?
JAMES: Like, for me, everything, when I grew up, everything was on top of the refrigerator.
JAMES: You know, so, when I when to my white friends they had a pantry. So I learned that as well. But they just, they kind of lived life without no care, no worry, you know. And I wanted to get to a point, you know, maybe I could live life without no care and no worry either, you know, being around a lot of my white friends growing up. It was just a pretty cool thing though.
LEMON: Yes. And even like bedtime. Bed time is like 7.30 or 8 o'clock.
JAMES: Yes. One down to that. None of that for me.
LEMON: Well, I'm glad you mentioned that. Because I've been watching you, especially over -- I've been watching you for a long time. This is not the first time I've interviewed you. I remember interviewing you for your web sites and some other things that you did.
LEMON: But you -- there's been something has changed in you over the last year or two. Is it what's going on in the country racially? Is it politically -- political?
JAMES: I think it's a little bit of everything. I think it starts with the Trayvon Martin situation, you know, and the reason it starts with that, I believe, is because having kids of my own, having boys of my own, it hit home for me to see it's to learn the story and to think that, you know, if my boy left home and he never returned.
JAMES: You know? That kind of -- that kind of hit a switch.
JAMES: That kind of hit a switch for me. And from that point on, I knew that my voice and my platform had to be used for more than just sports.
LEMON: Right. Good for you. Good for you, man. You said that your boy, your boy never returned home, but then there are people, kids are returning home. You think about the kids are being taken away.
LEMON: The same thing that, your heart like breaks when you think--
JAMES: Yes, absolutely.
LEMON: -- someone comes over, they want a better life and all of a sudden their kids are being taken away from them. Can you imagine that being--
JAMES: I can't imagine that. And you know, we've always grown up saying this is the land of the free and opportunity here in America, and to be a parent, to be a father, to be a husband and to think that you can have a beautiful family one day and then the next day they can be taken away, it's something that you never ever could imagine.
LEMON: You were talking about athletics. Right? How you think that this president is dividing.
LEMON: I think about the kids now. Like there are kids who are selling water. I interviewed a little kid who wanted some action figures, and he was out doing stuff with his mom and he got like the cops called on him. Like how do you have to tell these kids even with that, you know, when you're just living while black, how do you get them to keep going?
JAMES: I think--
LEMON: You know what I'm talking about, right?
JAMES: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think the best way to tell them to keep going is that no matter -- no matter how successful you could become, no matter who you are when you're an African-American kid man or female, you're always going against obstacles. And you see the one or two things that you do. You can allow it to affect you and for you to degrade, or you can allow it to empower you even more, and to rise above it. And I think if we look at some of the greatest leaders of our time, you look at Muhammad Ali, you look at Dr. Martin Luther King, and all the efforts they went through they never let them -- they never let it down them. They always used it to say OK, this is even more motivation. This is even more a way for me to even be more powerful, and they're the reason why we are here today.
LEMON: Your challenges become goals, and your haters become your motivators.
JAMES: Yes, absolutely.
LEMON: So you're saying, you were talking about the -- using athletics to divide people.
LEMON: You heard what the man in charge -- you heard what the president said about Marshawn, about Steph.
LEMON: About, you know, it seems like it's--
LEMON: Men of colors who have means and a platform.
LEMON: What's up with that?
JAMES: What's up with that is it's all wrong. And it's not up. It's down. And you know, for him to like I say, use sports to kind of divide us is something I can't -- I can't sit back and not say nothing.
LEMON: You tweeted about a couple of these.
LEMON: You tweeted about Charles Blow. But you tweeted about when Steph Curry, when he -- he called him -- you called him a bum.
LEMON: Because he -- but Steph had already said I'm not going to the White House.
JAMES: Yes, he already said he wasn't going. And he tried to use it after that to say well, you're not invited. Well, you can't un-invite me to something I've already said I'm not going to go to. And we all know Steph Curry, Mali citizen, great kid, come from a great background, great family.
LEMON: Great father.
JAMES: Great father, and so many different kids -- so many kids white, black, Hispanic, all different races love what he's doing and rightfully so. There's no reason for anyone to ever attack him, you know. And that's -- I felt that.
LEMON: Whenever there's something like he's in trouble, he can't wiggle his way out of something, he'll bring up the national anthem thing and kneeling or standing. Do you think he uses black athletes as a scapegoat?
JAMES: At times. At times, and more often than not, I believe he uses anything that's popular to try to negate people from thinking about the positive things that they can actually be doing and try to just get our minds to not be as sharp as possible right then. Just to, you know, either from kneeling from football players kneeling. Look at Kaepernick who was protesting something he believed in and he did in the most calm fashioned way possible.
JAMES: Very respectful. He had -- he did his due diligence. He was knowledgeable about it, and everyone knew why he did it. You look at all the NFL players that are still kneeling to things. their nature You look at Steph and Marshawn Lynch, you look at all these instances why he's trying to divide our sport, but at the end of the day sport is the reason why we all come together. LEMON: Yes. What do you -- I just wonder where we go from here, because Charlotte -- to a lot of people Charlottesville was like. I mean, you tweeted, I think you said is this what our country is, make America great again? You said that, and I'm paraphrasing your tweet. But I think that was his sort of for everybody like, all right, that's enough. I can't believe this.
JAMES: Absolutely. I mean, we all felt that. I don't think you -- it didn't matter what color you are to feel that tension, to feel like, you know, our great country, you know, that we all wake up every day in the land of the free as we believe with great opportunity to be even more than what people even expect you to become for that to happen, you just felt like that was -- that was kind of the tipping point.
LEMON: Will you -- I guess maybe you were surprised. Maybe you weren't. The whole n-word incident at your house when it was painted?
JAMES: I don't know if I was surprised. I don't know if I was hurt. I don't know if I was disappointed. It was so many different emotions. More importantly, it was the conversation that I had to have with my boys that it was -- that hurt me. But at the same time it also enlightened me and also knew that no matter as I stated, you know, when I did an interview after that, that no matter how big you can become, no how successful you are, no matter what you do in your community, no matter what you do in your profession, you know, being African-American in America is always tough, and they always going to let you know that you are the n-word no matter who you are, and that was just a reset.
LEMON: Even when you have LeBron status and LeBron money that--
JAMES: It doesn't.
LEMON: You think it's harder when you see these incidents just bother you, people living and just being black--
LEMON: -- and what happened to you in your house, do you think it's harder now or do you think it's always been there, we're just seeing it because of cell phones and?
JAMES: No, I think it's always been there. But I think the president in charge now has given people -- they don't care now. They throw it in your face now.
LEMON: Do you -- would you ever run for office?
JAMES: Run for office?
LEMON: Would you ever run -- would you ever be a politician and run for office?
JAMES: I don't think so. I don't think so. I'll say here is -- I don't know.
LEMON: I'm being serious. If someone tried to recruit a LeBron to run for president, they said listen, they've got no one. If you don't run, Trump's going to win. Would you run?
JAMES: Well, in that case I may. Yes, if they had no one, I mean, I believe there's some people out there, I hope.
LEMON: But if there's no one.
JAMES: Let's see first. Let's see first.
LEMON: You would run?
JAMES: Let's see first.
LEMON: Last question is what do you hope happens from this school? Because I got to tell you I walked through. I am impressed. Everybody is impressed. This is a great thing you're doing. What do you want to happen? What do you want this to go from here?
JAMES: What I want to happen every kid that walk through those doors, every kid, you know, from the 240 kids that we're starting with right now third and fourth grade to the 2022 when we're going to have first through eighth grade.
JAMES: We want every kid that walks through the school to be inspired, to come away with something, something where they can give back. And it doesn't matter, it could be anything, but just for kids in general all they want to know is that someone care. And when they walk through that door, I hope they know that someone care.
LEMON: And you're going -- you're going to L.A. but is your heart here?
JAMES: My heart is always here. This is Akron, Ohio, that's why I'm doing this school right here today.
LEMON: Yes. You're excited about L.A.?
LEMON: One more question. What would you say to the president if he was sitting right here?
JAMES: I would never sit across from him.
LEMON: You would never, you don't want to talk to him?
JAMES: No. I'd sit across from Barack, though.
LEMON: I loved sitting down with LeBron today. You know what I really loved about it, is that he -- is his authenticity.