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Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic slammed pro basketball’s LeBron James and other high-profile athletes for using their platforms to weigh in on politics.
Ibrahimovic, who plays for the Italian club AC Milan, said that professional athletes should stick to what they’re “good at” and what earned them the substantial platforms they hold. The soccer player said that while he respects James’ ability on the court, the basketball star’s public political statements do not “look good,” according to ESPN.
“[LeBron] 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,” Ibrahimovic said. “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,” he added. “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’ public activism has increased in recent years as the NBA star has become a vocal supporter for the Black Lives Matter movement. In May 2020 while reacting to the shooting of 25-year-old black man Ahmaud Arbery, James claimed that black men are “hunted everyday” in the United States.
“We’re literally hunted EVERYDAY/EVERYTIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!” James said in May. “Can’t even go for a damn jog man! Like [what the f***] man are you kidding me?!?!?!?!?!? No man fr ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! I’m sorry Ahmaud (Rest In Paradise) and my prayers and blessings sent to the heavens above to your family!!”
The multi-millionaire athlete has dumped significant amounts of money into activist organizations, including $100,000 into one that paid off fines and fees for tens of thousands of Florida felons so they could vote in last year’s election. As The Daily Wire reported:
An effort driven by celebrities such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NBA star LeBron James paid off court fines for tens of thousands of felons in Florida ahead of election day.
An analysis by the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald and ProPublica found that the effort may have paid off the fines of about 40,000 felons, assuming that those felons do not also have other unpaid fees that would bar them from voting. It is unclear how large an impact it may have on the election in Florida, a key swing state, but the effort is believed to advantage Democrats.
In December, The Associated Press awarded James Male Athlete of the Year for a fourth time. The basketball pro explained his activism in an interview with the outlet.
“I still know what I do on the floor, and obviously, I give everything to the game,” James said. “But I can make a greater impact off the floor right now, more than I can on the floor. And I want to continue to inspire people with the way I play the game of basketball. But there’s so many more things that I can do off the floor to help cultivate people, inspire people, bring people together, empower them.”