Shortly after Donald Trump mocked NBA star, first lady says she would visit his school and Michael Jordan joins chorus of support
The US first lady, Melania Trump, said she would be open to visiting the NBA superstar LeBron James’s new public school, the day after her husband questioned the Los Angeles Lakers player’s intelligence.
Donald Trump insulted James on Friday night hours after CNN re-aired an interview with the basketball player and reporter Don Lemon. “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,” Trump said. “He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”
Many, including professional athletes and the Republican governor of Ohio, were critical of Trump’s statements.
On Saturday afternoon, Melania Trump also issued a surprising, positive statement about James, but did not reference her husband.
“It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today,” a statement provided by her spokeswoman said. “As you know, Mrs. Trump has traveled the country and world talking to children about their well-being, healthy living, and the importance of responsible online behavior with her Be Best initiative. Her platform centers around visiting organizations, hospitals and schools, and she would be open to visiting the I Promise School in Akron.”
Because Trump mentioned the NBA legend and Charlotte Hornets principal owner Michael Jordan in the tweet – ending with “I like Mike!” – Jordan also weighed in.
“I support LJ,” Jordan said in a statement. “He’s doing an amazing job for his community.”
James, one of the most prominent athletes in the US, has been critical of Trump for years.
In September 2017, James called Trump a “bum” for rescinding his invitation to the Golden State Warriors to celebrate their basketball championship with a visit to the White House.
“Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!” James tweeted at the time.
In February, James explained why he was critical of the president: “While we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch us, that listen to us, that this is not the way.”
And in an interview with CNN this week, James told Lemon that Trump was “trying to divide our sport, but at the end of the day, sport is the reason why we all come together”.
When Lemon asked: “What would you say to the President if he was sitting right here?” James said: “I would never sit across from him.”
Trump’s tweet on Friday night drew accusations of racism because Lemon and James are black men and had been discussing Trump’s previous attacks on black athletes in the interview. Representative Tim Ryan, a Democrat who represents James’s hometown’s district, said: “I think it reveals and continues to reveal that president Trump race baits.”
The sports commentator Bill Simmons tweeted: “LeBron is a smart dude (and one of the most thoughtful athletes we have) – this is a bullshit tweet and feels more than a little racist.”
James, meanwhile, did not weigh in on the debate and instead on Saturday morning shared photos from the school he just opened.