New York, NY — NBA star Lebron James is no longer keeping his mouth closed about social issues. This past Monday, while in New York City, James was seen wearing a t-shirt that said “I Can’t Breathe”, which he says pays respect to NYC native Eric Garner, who died after a NYPD officer applied a chokehold when attempting to arrest him. The entire encounter was on camera, and Garner can be repeatedly heard saying said, “I can’t breathe”.
NBA stars Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets also wore the exact same shirt recently before an NBA game, which Lebron says prompted him to get one too.
When reporters asked him if there was a larger message, James replied, “How larger can it be than to pay respects to the family? It doesn’t get any larger than that. Obviously our society needs to do better. Like I said before, violence isn’t the answer and retaliation isn’t the solution. As a society, we know we have to get better. It’s not going to be done in one day… We all have to do better.”
But James is not just all talk. His foundation, The Lebron James Family Foundation based in Akron, Ohio, also puts out positive messages and partners with local organizations (such as the Boys and Girls Club) and businesses to empower the community.
“If it feels important to me, then I respond. If it doesn’t, I don’t,” James says. “There’s a lot of issues that I haven’t talked about. For me, it’s about knowledge. It’s a gut feeling. If it hits home for you, if you feel it, then go about it. If not, then don’t worry about it.”
Fans and civil rights activist say they admire James for having a social conscience and not worrying about backlash from corporate sponsors. One fan was quoted as saying, “Just because you are paid well by big sponsors, it doesn’t mean you can’t have your own voice!”