The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin said Monday that "today's the day LeBron James became president."
Zirin's comments followed a press conference held by NBA star LeBron James, where the Cleveland Cavaliers' small forward discussed the ongoing debate over NFL players "taking a knee" during the national anthem. President Donald Trump enflamed tensions Friday when, during a speech in Alabama, he called on NFL owners to fire players who refuse to stand.
Zirin appeared on an MSNBC panel alongside former NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth and Bloomberg White House reporter Shannon Pettypiece to discuss Trump's comments. The Nation editor attacked the president for using what he described as dialogue with racially charged undertones.
"Donald Trump, you know, he has this lizard brain that's finely attuned to the worst angels in the nature of his audience. I'm sure he thought to himself, ‘hey, I'm going to demonize black dissenting athletes. This crowd in Alabama, they're going to eat it up,'" he said.
Zirin was more positive in response to James' press conference.
"Today's the day Lebron James became president. That's all I was thinking," he said.
Zirin went on to laud James's achievements as having created a "new mold for political athletes to achieve things where politicians cannot."
"When Lebron James came to this league at age 18, he said two things. He said he wanted to be the richest athlete in the history of world, and he said he wanted to be an icon like Muhammad Ali. And I remember hearing that and saying to myself, those are two things, but they don't necessarily go well together," he said.
"He's shown us that you can create a synthesis of someone who can build power, build ownership, but also be a political athlete in the mold of Muhammed Ali," he said. "He showed today that he didn't just break the mold; he's creating a new mold for political athletes to achieve things where politicians cannot."