While discussing his newly opened school in Ohio, LeBron James voiced an interesting observation about the president.
Donald Trump intentionally uses sports to exploit our differences, the basketball star said. And that’s something he just can’t get behind.
“What I’ve noticed over the past few months,” James told CNN, “is [that Trump’s] kind of using sports to kind of divide us.”
He explained to Don Lemon that he believes Trump is politicizing athletics for personal gain and targeting athletes of color, like Colin Kaepernick and Steph Curry, who use their platforms to speak out.
“That’s something that I can’t relate to,” James said of Trump’s divisiveness, “because I know sports was the first time I was ever around someone white.”
“I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got the opportunity to learn about me, and we became very good friends. And I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is all because of sports.’ Sports has never been something that divides people, it’s always been something that brings [people] together.”
LeBRON on Trump: “He’s dividing us, & what I noticed over the last few months is that he’s kinda used sport to kind of divide us, & that’s something that I can’t relate to. I know that sport was the first time I ever was around someone white.” pic.twitter.com/vB4Iuvqt4C
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 31, 2018
One way sports have helped James bring people together is through the I Promise School, an ambitious new project benefiting the kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
This brand-new, certified-STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) public elementary school created by the LeBron James Family Foundation is far from the typical academic institution.
Teaming up with Akron Public Schools, I Promise serves at-risk kids who were randomly selected from a pool of local students who’d fallen behind their reading level. I Promise implements longer school days to help kids academically, offering a variety of extracurriculars — like art, gym, and music — on top of more standard courses, like math, science, and reading.
Right now, about 240 kids in third and fourth grade are enrolled, James told CNN. But by 2022, the school will be open to first to eighth graders.
That’s not all, though.
I Promise benefits not just its students, but their families, too.
The school offers a food bank to make sure students — and their parents and siblings — are well-fed. Its job placement and GED programs help parents find work and get an education themselves.
“We are letting people know that it is about true wraparound support,” Principal Brandi Davis told the Los Angeles Times. “True family integration, true compassion.”
Each student gets a bike, too — a nod to James’ own upbringing, when he used a bike to pass through dangerous neighborhoods quickly. “I wanted to keep it as consistent and as authentic to when I was a kid,” James said.
To make sure teachers are well-equipped, staff can access psychological training to help kids struggling with stress outside the classroom. And every Wednesday, they can take part in career development services as well.
Not every student at I Promise will be an athlete, of course — but that’s hardly the expectation, according to James.
He just hopes every kid will “come away with something” and know the world has a place for them in it.
“For kids, in general, all they want to know is that someone cares,” James said. “And when they walk through that door, I hope they know that someone cares.”
Be it on the basketball court or in the classroom, James is living proof that sports can be a catalyst that brings communities together — not used as a political talking point intended to divide.
I Promise could teach the president a thing or two, it seems.