LeBron James is one of the the most beloved athletes in the history of the state of Ohio. While he received a great deal of ire for leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, James returned back to his home state to lead the Cavaliers to their first NBA championship and, in the process, put the finishing touches on an irrefutable sporting legacy. Off the court, James has also given back in a significant way, founding his “I Promise” school in Akron and providing leadership on a number of issues.
With that as the backdrop, President Donald Trump spent part of the day before the 2020 national election speaking to a crowd of supporters in Avoca, Pennsylvania, and James became a topic. In fact, supporters of Trump chanted “LeBron James sucks” with the apparent backing of the speaker.
"LeBron James sucks!" chants at the Trump rally pic.twitter.com/XbSZrhn961
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 2, 2020
“How about basketball?” Trump said. “How about LeBron? I felt badly for LeBron, very badly. Down 71% and that’s with the championship. I didn’t watch one shot. I get bored. Back, forth, back, forth. You know why? When they don’t respect our country, when they don’t respect our flag, nobody wants to watch. Nobody.”
Trump didn’t stop there, transitioning into a common refrain about the NFL and pivoting back to previous rhetoric about the flag and national anthem after leading with television ratings.
“And the NFL is way down,” he said. “The NFL is way down. You gotta stand for our flag. You gotta really be great to our flag and to our anthem. And if you don’t do that, we’re not watching.”
As his NFL comments came to a halt, the chant began. Then, Trump encouraged the behavior by saying “what a crowd” and indicating that he would be okay with it continuing if not for more rallies to attend later in the day.
Reactions will undoubtedly be divided along the political spectrum, and that is the nature of the discourse in 2020. It is unquestionably bizarre, however, to have the president encouraging this kind of chant against an active athlete, and we can add this to the seemingly unending list of norm-breaking activities in recent months and years.