NBA superstar LeBron James took aim at racism in America on Wednesday after police said a racial slur was painted on a gate of the home he owns in Los Angeles.
The incident came on the eve of Game One of the NBA Finals, which pits James’s reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors.
“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 in Oakland, California, where Game One will take place. “It just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America.”
Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Aareon Jefferson said the offensive graffiti was painted on an outer gate of the $20 million home James purchased in 2015 in the city’s upscale Brentwood neighborhood.
Police were notified around 6:45 am, and the graffiti was quickly covered by property management staff, Aareon said. Hours later, an emotional James addressed the matter.
“Hate in America, especially for African-Americans, is living every day,” added James, who said 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.
James said he hoped Wednesday’s incident “can keep the conversation going and can shed light on us trying to figure out a way to keep progressing and not regressing.”
‘Killing me inside’
The 32-year-old James has spoken out before on social and political issues. He denounced fatal police shootings of unarmed black men and endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
But he said it was “killing me inside” that he would not be able to discuss the vandalism with his two young sons, who were with the rest of the family at their Ohio home.
“My little girl’s too young to actually understand it right now,” he said. “But I can’t sit in front of my boys right now and I won’t be home until next week, so this is kind of killing me inside right now. But my wife is unbelievable ... she said everything’s fine, so that helps me out a lot.”
James admitted the incident had left him feeling less than his “normal energetic self.”
He vowed he wouldn’t let it throw him off as the Cavaliers try to defend their crown in the best-of-seven final – but it was a reminder of where basketball fits in the broader scheme of life.
“I’ll be focused tomorrow on our game plan and focused on these games,” James vowed. “I will be as focused as I can be on the job at hand tomorrow, but this is a situation where it just puts me back in place of what’s actually more important – and basketball’s not the most important thing in my life.”