LeBron James on Black Voter Participation, Misinformation and Trump

LeBron James during the N.B.A. finals this month. He has increasingly waded into political and social activism. Credit...Kim Klement/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

More Than a Vote, the collective of athletes headlined by the basketball star LeBron James, on Wednesday will introduce its final political push before Election Day, a rapid response and advertisement operation meant to combat the spread of misinformation among younger Black voters.

LeBron James during the N.B.A. finals this month. He has increasingly waded into political and social activism. 
LeBron James during the N.B.A. finals this month. He has increasingly waded into political and social activism. Credit…Kim Klement/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The initiative, which is a collaboration with the political group Win Black and includes some celebrity partners, will seek to educate younger Black voters on how to spot false political statements spreading on social media. The goal is to provide advice that culminates in young people making a plan to vote — either by absentee ballot or in person.

Called “Under Review,” the effort will be featured on Snapchat through Election Day, and will include videos from celebrities and activists like Desus and MeroJemele Hill and the athletes involved in More Than a Vote.

It comes after the group has invested in recruiting more than 40,000 poll workers, helping formerly incarcerated people regain their voting rights and aiding the push for N.B.A. arenas to be converted into polling locations.

In a statement, the co-founders of Win Black said the videos would take on political misinformation targeted at suppressing the Black vote, a problem that federal agencies identified in the 2016 presidential election.

“Harmful disinformation is being weaponized to block the voices and votes of Black Americans — but we have the power to stop it,” said the co-founders, Andre Banks and Ashley Bryant. “Through this partnership, Under Review will urgently flood the zone with the facts we need to counter the targeted attacks coming from bad actors at home and abroad.”

In a phone interview with The New York Times, Mr. James discussed the importance of voting, and how he sees his evolving role as both an athlete and a social activist. Mr. James, who as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers recently won his fourth N.B.A. championship, framed off-the-court activism as a key part of how he views his legacy.

It’s simple. We believe that Black people, our community, we’ve been pushed away from our civic duty. We’ve been fed misinformation for many years.

These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

And I’m in a position where I can educate people and, through More Than a Vote, educate people on how important this movement is, and how important their civic duty is. Not only to empower themselves, but to give back to their community as well.

It’s something that we’re very passionate about — that I’m very passionate about. I’m happy and honored that I can have these athletes and these influencers and the people that want to be engaged with me as well.

Each of More Than a Vote’s issues has been targeted at Black communities. Why is that racial lens important to your political involvement?

It’s authentic to who I am. I come from the Black community. I understand my Black people and what we go through on a day-to-day basis. I understand that we’ve not been given a lot of information along the course of time, and I understand how important our vote is.

I listen to my kids in my hometown of Akron, Ohio, I listen to my kids in my I Promise School, and one of the things that we always talk about is how we don’t get a lot of information, or we feel that we’re not appreciated, or we feel that our vote does not count.

So, you know, not only am I trying to to engage with my kids at an early age — third, fourth, fifth graders — but also the ones that also have the opportunity to vote now: the 18-year-olds, the 22-year-olds, the 25-year-olds, the 40-year-olds.
Because a lot of us just thought our vote doesn’t count: That’s what they’ve been taught, that’s how they’ve been educated, that how they’ve always felt. They’ve felt kind of institutionalized. But I want to give them the right information, I want them to know how important they can be.

Last election cycle, you campaigned for Hillary Clinton in Ohio. This time, you’ve focused more on issues rather than an individual candidate. Can you explain to me the thinking behind that shift?

I don’t want to say it’s a shift. It’s just what needed to be done at this point in time.

We’ve been talking about voter suppression, we’ve been talking about police brutality, systemic racism. We’ve had so many things going on, and voter suppression in our communities happens to be at the forefront. So that’s something we wanted to educate our people on.

What is most important to you come Election Day? Is it greater participation from Black voters? Is it the removal of President Trump, who I know you’ve had some back-and-forth with?

I define success by our people going out and voting.

You know, there’s so many stats out there, you can see it every time. Who didn’t vote? What counties didn’t vote? What communities didn’t vote? And a lot of that has had to do with our Black people. So, hopefully, we can get them out and educated and let them understand how important this moment is.

I don’t go back and forth with anybody. And I damn sure won’t go back and forth with that guy. But we want better, we want change in our community. We always talk about, “We want change,” and now we have the opportunity to do that.

The N.B.A. had a work stoppage this summer after the shooting of Jacob Blake. When you look back at that fraught moment for the league, a political one also, how do you think it handled it?

I think they handled it great. And the great thing is the partnership. The understanding — I don’t even want to just say understanding — them listening to us. They listened to the players.

Like I said, we want change. To be able to have action and to have change, that’s what is important to us.

This is not where you were at the beginning of your career, in terms of off-the-court activism. How did you transition from LeBron James the basketball player to embracing your role as a social leader?

We all have moments in our lives where we know who we are and we know what we’re about.

And it’s about growth. I’ve grown over the course of my career. I’ve grown over the course of being an 18-year-old kid that came into the league in 2003, to a 35-year-old man that’s a husband and a father of three kids.

I’ve grown to know who I am and what I stand for. And it’s not just about me, it’s about my people. That’s why I’m leading the charge.

Thank you and congratulations on championship ring No. 4.

Appreciate you.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *