LeBron James is one of the most socially conscious athletes in the world. Whether it's starting his "More Than a Vote" campaign to fight back against voter suppression, speaking out against gun violence or even opening the "I Promise" school in Akron, Ohio, James has never been shy about using his fame to help those less fortunate than himself.
That has brought him into conflict with politicians, media figures, fans, and now, apparently, even another athlete. AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is known to express his opinion, regardless of the topic. In a recent interview with Discovery+ in Sweden, that topic was James. Ibrahimovic believes that LeBron should stick to sports and criticized the Los Angeles Lakers star's social activism.
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"[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.
"That is the big 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 did not take kindly to Ibrahimovic's comments. In a lengthy post-game response, he reiterated that he would never simply stick to sports and would always use his platform for the benefit of his community.
"At the end of the day, I would never shut up about things that are wrong. I preach about my people and I preach about inequality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression, things that go on in our community because I was part of my community at one point and seeing things that are going on," James said. "I know what's going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that are going through the same thing and they need a voice.
"I'm their voice. I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on not only in my community but around this country and around the world. There's no way I would ever just stick to sports because I understand this platform and how powerful my voice is. You can just ask Renee Montgomery if I would've shut up and just dribbled, seeing that beautiful black woman today be a part of a group where she's part of an ownership group with the Atlanta Dream down in Atlanta."
He went on to call out Ibrahimovic's hypocrisy considering comments that he has made about racism in the past.
"It's funny he said that, because I believe in 2018 he was the same guy who said when he was bad in Sweden, he was talking about the same things, because his last name wasn't a certain last name, he felt like there was racism going on when he was out on the pitch."
He concluded by suggesting that he isn't the person to attack on these matters. "I speak from a very educated mind," James said. "So I'm kind of the wrong guy to go at because I do my homework."
Ibrahimovic is known for being outspoken, but not in the same ways that James is. He was a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy for two seasons and the Swedish soccer star took out a full-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times upon joining the team that read "Dear Los Angeles, you're welcome."
The two occupied the same city for only a short time, but apparently, Ibrahimovic was not a fan of James' off-court activism in that time. He's far from the only person to criticize the Laker star for using his platform to push for social change. None of them have succeeded in dissuading James, and, it seems, Ibrahimovic hasn't either.