LeBron James went back at Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Friday after the soccer star was quoted as saying that James and other famous people should stay out of politics.

“There is no way I would ever just stick to sports,” James told reporters after the Lakers’ victory over the Trail Blazers in Los Angeles. “Because I understand how this platform — how powerful my voice is.”

James said that he “preaches” about “inequality, social injustice, racism (and) systematic voter suppression.”

James also took pride in Renee Montgomery becoming a part-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream earlier in the day. He said to ask her what would have happened “if I would have shut up and just dribbled.”

James said in January that he was interested in putting together a group to buy the franchise and push out co-owner Kelly Loeffler. Dream players campaigned against Loeffler in the 2020 election cycle because of Loeffler’s stances as a U.S. senator. Loeffler, a Republican, lost a runoff election Jan. 5 to Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.

MORE: LeBron rips NBA’s plans to hold All-Star Game

Ibrahimovic essentially told James and other people who achieve fame to stay in their lanes.

“[James] is phenomenal at what he’s doing, but I don’t like when people have some kind of status, they go and do politics at the same time,” the AC Milan standout told Discovery+ in Sweden. “Do what you’re good at. Do the category you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football.

“I don’t do politics. If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they become in a certain status. Stay out of it. Just do what you do best because it doesn’t look good.”

James, who is a part-owner of Premier League giant Liverpool, tried to turn the tables on Ibrahimovic by referring to the striker’s claim several years ago that he himself was the target of racism in his native Sweden.

“It’s funny he said that because I believe in, like, 2018 he was the same guy who said when he was back in Sweden talking about the same thing because his last name wasn’t a certain last name that he felt like there was racism going on when he was out on the pitch. Right? He did say that, right? Yeah. I thought he said that.

“I speak from a very educated mind. I’m kind of the wrong guy to actually go at because I do my homework.”

James’ recollection was off slightly. Ibrahimovic told a French interviewer in 2018 that Swedish media practiced “latent racism” in their coverage of him because “they do not accept me being Ibrahimovic.”

“If another player made the same mistakes as me, they would defend him. When it’s me, they do not defend me. But it’s OK, it’s what made me stronger,” Ibrahimovic was quoted as saying. 

“I’m talking about racism. I’m not saying it’s asserted racism, but latent racism. That’s it, I’m sure. If my name was Svensson or Andersson, or if I was blond, they would defend me even if I robbed a bank,” he added. 

Material from Goal was used in this report.





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