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Late Friday night, Donald Trump ignited social media by attacking the intelligence of Lakers forward LeBron James, perhaps the greatest player of his generation, whose interview with CNN’s Don Lemon the president had apparently just watched. During the wide-ranging sit-down, LeBron discussed everything from sports to institutional racism to police brutality, and said the he believes Trump has “used sports to kinda divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to.” The president exploded in response: “[Lemon] made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”
It wasn’t a particularly smart move for a man deigning to call LeBron dumb. Just days after attacking Ohio’s hometown hero, Trump is set to travel to the state himself to campaign for Troy Balderson, who is locked in a dead heat with Democrat Danny O’Connor to represent the 12th Congressional District. Nothing like slandering Akron’s native son to endear yourself to the locals.
Of course, James is only the latest in a string of minority athletes that have found themselves on Trump’s radar, particularly N.F.L. players who have protested police violence by kneeling during the national anthem before games. During one rally, Trump urged teams to fire players who protested, yelling, “Get that son of a bitch off the field.” (The league ultimately capitulated, changing its rules to punish players who kneel.) His ongoing feud with the N.F.L. has also poisoned relations with the N.B.A., which has also been politically active during the Trump era. When Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry declined Trump’s invitation to visit the White House, the president responded by rescinding it. Afterward, James memorably tweeted at the president, “U bum.”
Lemon fired back on Saturday by linking to a news article about the school James just founded in partnership with the Akron Public Schools system, intended to be a haven for at-risk and low-income 3rd and 4th graders and their families.
Akron’s I Promise School focuses on Math, Science, and Engineering education while also providing trauma and family support to children, and includes programs to help parents find a job and get their G.E.D. The school has an on-site food bank and guarantees free tuition to the University of Akron to all graduates starting in 2121.