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LeBron James responds to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, calls out soccer player's hypocrisy

Jack Baer
·Writer
·4-min read

Yet another person told LeBron James to shut up and dribble, this time a fellow athlete, and it led to the same result: a fiery response from the Los Angeles Lakers star.

Soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic launched the latest volley at James on Thursday, complaining about James' political and social outspokenness. It was a familiar statement from a new source:

"Do what you’re good at. Do the category that you do," he said. "I play football because I’m the best at playing football, I’m no politician. If I’d been a politician, I would be doing politics. This is the first mistake famous people do when they become famous and come into a certain status. For me it is better to avoid certain topics and do what you’re best at doing, because otherwise it doesn't look good."

James did not publicly respond to Ibrahimovic until Friday night, after the Lakers' 102-93 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. It was the Lakers' first win in more than a week, but the focus of the postgame news conference soon turned to James' activism.

In a lengthy response, James reiterated that he will never not speak out about injustice he says and pointed to his past results like his I Promise School and helping Renee Montgomery buy the Atlanta Dream. At the end, he pointedly called out Ibrahimovic's own past statements that could be construed as not sticking to sports.

Here's the whole thing:

At the end of the day, I will never shut up about things that are wrong. I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social justice, racism, voter suppression, things that go on in our community because I was a part of my community at one point and saw the things that were going on, and I know what’s still going on because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that are going through the same thing and they need a voice. I’m their voice and I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that might be going on, not only in my community but in this country and around the world.

There’s no way I would ever just stick to sports, because I understand this platform and how powerful my voice is. He can just ask Renee Montgomery if I would have shut up and just dribbled, just seeing that beautiful Black woman today be part of a group — she’s part of the ownership group with the Atlanta Dream.

It’s funny he’d say that because I believe in 2018 he was the same guy who said, when he was back in Sweden, talking about the same things, because his last name wasn’t a certain last name, that he felt like it was racism going on when he was out on the pitch. Right? He did say that, right? I thought he said that. I speak from a very educated mind. I’m kinda the wrong guy to actually go at, because I do my homework.

That 2018 story James references is almost certainly when Ibrahimovic complained of the media's "undercover racism" over his Muslim background.

From Bleacher Report:

"What does the Swedish media do? They defend me, or do they jump on and attack me? They still attack me, because they cannot accept that I am Ibrahimovic.

"If another player would do same mistake I do, they would defend him. But when it comes to me, they don't defend me.

"This is about racism. This is about racism. I don't say there is racism, but I say there is undercover racism.

"This exists, I am 100 percent sure, because I am not Andersson or Svensson. If I would be that, trust me, they would defend me even if I would rob a bank. They would defend me, I tell you."

Obviously, an American athlete's broad activism and a Swedish player's discussion of his personal experience are difficult to compare fairly, but it's not hard to see James' point. We'll see if and how Ibrahimovic ends up responding.

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