Political protests by NBA players will ‘destroy basketball’, says Trump | Sport

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theguardian

Donald Trump has claimed that what he viewed as political activity by the National Basketball Association would destroy the sport.

After star players such as Lebron James refused to take the court for playoff games this week in protest at the Kenosha police shooting, the US president expanded his attack on the boycott.

“I think what they’re doing to the NBA in particular is gonna destroy basketball,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One on Friday night. He said it would be “threatening” to the NBA.

NBA players halted play for three days in a protest sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The league and players association said on Friday that playoffs would resume on Saturday in a deal that includes increased access to voting in the US presidential election in November.

Trump said people did not want to be confronted with politics when watching sports.

“It’s very bad for the NBA, and it’s gonna prove to be very bad for football,” he said, anticipating what many believe will be similar player action when the NFL football season starts.

James, an outspoken activist and frequent critic of Trump, has helped form a group that will spend millions of dollars to battle voter disenfranchisement in predominantly black communities ahead of the election between the Trump and his Democrat opponent, Joe Biden.

He also has helped push the NBA to recognise racial justice issues and the Black Lives Matter movement, including the decision to postpone playoff games this week after a player boycott to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Wisconsin.

The NBA and its players said on Friday the playoffs would resume after they agreed to have teams that own and control their stadiums turn them into polling places in November to allow for safe in-person voting in areas vulnerable to COVID-19
– an early initiative of James’ group More Than A Vote.

The NBA said it will also form a social justice coalition to work on increasing access to voting and promoting civic engagement.

James, who campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton four years ago, has promised to campaign for Biden this year. Given that black voter turnout dropped in 2016 for the first time in 20 years, his influence could be critical in 2020, strategists and activists said.

“LeBron is likely to have a huge impact,” said Karen Finney, a Democratic political strategist and aide on Clinton’s 2016 campaign. “He has the respect and the credibility with the black community, so he’s a tremendous asset.”

James’ longtime activism on racial justice issues and criticism of Trump prompted white Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham in 2018 to tell him and fellow Black NBA star Kevin Durant to “shut up and dribble”.

A 16-time NBA All Star who is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, James, 35, reacted angrily this week to the shooting of Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which sparked days of civil unrest.

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