An emotional but resolute LeBron James, the NBA superstar, has spoken up about the racism black people suffer in the United States after a racial slur was painted on a gate of his home in Los Angeles, California.
“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America – it’s tough,” James told reporters on Wednesday.
He was speaking from Oakland, on the eve of Game One of the NBA Finals, which pits James’ reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors.
LeBron James’ COMMENTS IN FULL:
As I sit here on the eve of one of the greatest sporting events that we have in sports, race and what’s going on comes again.
On my behalf and my family’s behalf, but I look at it as this – if this is [going to] shed light to continue to keep the conversation going on my behalf, then I’m OK with it. My family is safe, they’re safe, and that’s the most important [thing].
But it just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America.
Hate in America, especially for African Americans, is living every day. Even though it’s concealed most of the time – we know people hide their faces and will say things about you when they see you, they smile on your face, – it’s alive every single day.
I think back to Emmett Till’s mom actually, and the reason that she had an open casket is because she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as a hate crime and being black in America.
No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you – being black in America is tough.
We got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African Americans until we feel equal in America.
But my family is safe, and that’s what is important.
He said: “It just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America.
“You know hate in America, especially for African Americans, is living every day. Even though that it’s concealed most of the time, you know people hide their faces and will say things about you and when they see you they smile in your face, it’s alive every single day,” James added.
“But my family is safe, and that’s what is important.”
An unidentified person spray painted the “n-word” on the front gate of James’ home in the Brentwood neighbourhood on Wednesday morning, Captain Patricia Sandoval, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department, had earlier said.
James, 32, was not at home at the time, but the property manager told officers that they believed the incident was captured on surveillance video, Sandoval said.
The police was notified around 6:45am (14:45 GMT), and the graffiti was quickly covered by property management staff.
Police are investigating it as an act of vandalism and a possible hate crime.
James also said at the press conference that when he was told of the incident, he thought of the mother of Emmett Till, a black American who was lynched in 1995 at the age of 14.
Till’s mother insisted her son’s casket be left open at his funeral so the brutality of his death could be seen.
“We got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African Americans until we feel equal in America.”
James, a three-time NBA champion considered by many as the best basketball player currently in the world, has spoken out before on social and political issues.
He denounced fatal police shootings of unarmed black men and endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.
Last year, San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand up for the national anthem ahead of NFL games, protesting police killings of unarmed black men in a country that “oppresses black people and people of colour”.
Kaepernick was backed by his team but faced a barrage of abuse and criticism, including a comment from then-presidential hopeful Donald Trump who told him to “find a country that works better for him”.
Opal Tometi, cofounder of the activist movement Black Lives Matter, had told Al Jazeera at the time that “the United States has an undeniable problem with structural racism.
“Some people are ignorant or choose to hide behind their privilege and profess that racism isn’t an issue,” Tometi said.
“But this is naive, disingenuous and lacks a genuine look at the facts and countless stories that say racism is alive and well in the US.”