In almost every year, media day for the Cavaliers is about the team, its players and high hopes for the upcoming NBA season.
That’s especially true in the era of LeBron James’ return engagement with the Cavaliers, packed houses at Quicken Loans Arena, three straight appearances in the NBA Finals and the 2016 NBA championship.
But all of the basketball talk took a back seat on Sept. 25 as the Cavs staged media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts, their training center in Independence.
It took a back seat shortly after James, wearing the new Cavs road uniform, sat down at the interview table, leaned into the microphone and began to field questions about his outspoken criticisms of President Donald J. Trump.
In recent days, via Twitter and other social media, James has referred to Trump as a “bum.” He did so after Trump rebuked Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry for saying he wouldn’t attend a White House reception for the reigning NBA champions.
James’ anger at Trump was further stoked when the president used a series of weekend tweets to strongly criticize players in the National Football League for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games. Trump argued that the NFL needed to get its house in order and threaten players with losing their jobs if they didn’t change their behavior.
In his opening statement to the assembled reporters, James said he knew the questions about his war of words with Trump were coming and was prepared to speak his mind.
Never once referring to him by name, James tore into Trump for what the Akron native and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player regards as the president’s wrong-headed use of sports to score partisan political points.
“The thing that frustrated me, pissed me off a little bit, was him using sports as the platform to divide us,” James said. “It’s amazing what sports can do for everyone, no matter their shape size, ethnicity or religion. People find teams, people find players, people find colors because of sport. They just gravitate toward that and it makes them so happy. And it brings people together.”
James said he watched with great interest as NFL players before the games played on Sept. 24 responded to Trump’s calls for NFL owners and league officials to create and enforce a code of conduct for players during the playing of the anthem. Many players knelt, others joined arms. NFL owners, including Jimmy and Dee Haslam of the Browns, issued statements supporting the players and dismissing Trump’s calls for action,
“I salute the NFL, the players , the coaches, the owners, fans, anyone who had any association with the NFL yesterday,” James said. ”It was unbelievable. There was no divide, even from that guy who continues to divide us as people.”
James continued to give direct answers to straightforward questions about his outspoken criticism of Trump. That criticism began during the general election campaign, when James publicly endorsed Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.
“We still have problems, like everybody else. When we have those problems, we have to come together and be as great as we can be as a people. The people run this country, not one individual, and damn sure not him,” James said.
The fact is he is from Ohio and calls this state home won’t deter him from speaking his mind about Trump, James added.
“For me as a professional athlete in this state, and even though this state voted for Trump, that won’t stop me from inspiring the people of this state and inspiring the youth. My job and my calling is much bigger than that guy. I don’t even like saying his name.”
James said he thought people who voted for Trump weren’t “educated on the individual or what’s actually going on in the state of the world.” He added it wouldn’t surprise him if NBA players found ways to make public statements of protest, too, once the regular season begins of Oct. 17.
“I love the fact the conversation has started,” James said.
Around the extended discussion of his social conscience and disdain for Trump, James answered questions about the 2017-18 Cavs (he loves their potential), the departure of All-Star point guard and former teammate Kyrie Irving via a forced trade to Boston (“I had a lot of emotions”), reports that close friend and former Miami teammate Dwyane Wade might think about joining the Cavs (“I would love to have D-Wade as a part of this team”) and his health going into a 15th NBA season (“I’m ready. This was one of the best off-seasons of my career”).
Also coming to the microphone on media day were head coach Tyronn Lue, returning veterans J.R. Smith and Kevin Love and newly acquired veterans Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas.
>> Isaiah Thomas expected to play in games by January
>> Photos: Cavaliers Media Day, Sept. 25, 2017