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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It did not take long for Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James to speak out on George Floyd’s killing after video emerged showing a white police officer kneeling on the unarmed Black man’s neck for over eight minutes. James deliberated much longer, though, about joining the legions of protesters.
“I definitely had my moments,” James said. “I felt like me being physical out there protesting and things of that nature. But then on the other side also, I know how I work as well. I know that I can be just as effective by the way I work with using my platform, using my voice, doing the things that I’ve been doing behind closed doors to be very effective as well. So there was part of me that was like, ‘I wish I was out there as well in the front line.’ But I know how efficient I can also be behind closed doors and there’s a lot of things going on that a lot of people don’t know that I’m able to change.”
There are also a lot of things people do know about James’ efforts to spark change. The most instrumental? He formed the “More than a Vote” initiative to improve voter registration and reduce voter suppression in the Black community.
LeBron James wears a “Black Lives Matter” shirt prior to Thursday’s game against the Clippers. (Photo: Mike Ehrmann, USA TODAY Sports)
James has been vocal for the past four years about President Donald Trump and his racially divisive rhetoric. James’ voting initiative could influence the presidential election between Trump and Democratic senator Joe Biden.
“If we say we want change, we have to make change,” James said. “Leadership is a very dynamic thing. It’s key to anything in this world, no matter if you’re talking about sports or politics or households and running a family, you have to have a leader that you feel confident in. So I think November is very huge. That’s why I started the initiative.”
That wasn’t the only reason, though. James is among a handful of NBA players that believe voting in local and state elections will yield the most change in racial reforms. Local and state elections influence mayors, senators and judges that can address various systemic racism issues, including education, housing, law enforcement and the judicial system.
“Hopefully we can get into our communities, especially the Black communities,” James said. “They’ve felt like for so many years that voter suppression, just feels like oppression. They don’t believe that their votes count. They don’t believe that they can go and affect change. And that’s something that I grew up feeling the same way. I never believed living in a small community, and a Black community, that people really listened to you. Or that you can actually go cast a ballot and your votes actually count.”
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James does not believe that anymore. In past years, he has campaigned for Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He also has spoken out when law enforcement officials have killed unarmed Black people. And he was among the majority of NBA players during the season restart that kneeled during the national anthem to protest systemic racism. That incident sparked memories of Floyd’s killing.
“It was a little bit over four minutes, and we actually as a unit, as a team, had to switch our knees over from one knee to the other knee because they started to get sore,” James said. “They started to kind of start hurting a little bit. And that’s just a little over four minutes. And you think about eight minutes and 46 seconds, an officer having his knee on someone’s throat for that long. Video or no video, it doesn’t matter. No one deserved to lose their life when it could have been prevented from what I’ve seen and from what the world has seen.”
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