LeBron James worries about what might happen should his son have an encounter with police officers.
In a press conference on Monday, the reigning NBA champion defended athletes’ decisions to protest police brutality during the national anthem. He also told reporters he was afraid of how police officers might treat his 11-year-old son. “If my son calls me and says he’s been pulled over,” James said, “I’m not that confident that things are going to go well and my son is going to return home.”
James was taking questions at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason media day. Amidst reflection on the team’s past season and preparation for the next, the four-time MVP was asked his opinion on national anthem protests by athletes like Colin Kaepernick. James said he plans to stand for the anthem, but deeply respects Kaepernick’s peaceful courage.
If my son calls me and says he’s been pulled over, I’m not that confident that things are going to go well and my son is going to return home.
“You have the right to voice your opinion, stand for your opinion, and he’s doing it in the most peaceful way I’ve seen someone do something,” James said. “What I do not like about the situation is the negative attention that has been thrown upon him from certain people, because it’s not deserved.”
This isn’t the first time James has used his platform to spotlight police violence. Before a game against the Brooklyn Nets in 2014, James and his teammate Kyrie Irving warmed up in t-shirts reading “I Can’t Breathe” in support of Eric Garner, who was fatally strangled that summer by an NYPD officer who suspected Garner of illegally selling cigarettes.
Anticipating the possibility of protests—during the anthem or otherwise—once the 2016-17 season starts next month, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association sent a memo to players indicating that the league and union were “working [on ways] to come together and take meaningful action.” Several players and coaches already have spoken out during the offseason on the topic of police shootings.