Zlatan Responds to LeBron James' Politics Remarks: 'Athletes Should Be Athletes'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2021

AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks on during warm up before the Europa League round of 32 first leg soccer match between Red Star and AC Milan at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has reiterated his stance that the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and other high-profile athletes should stay out of political discussions.

"Athletes unite the world, politics divide it," Ibrahimovic told reporters Tuesday. "Our role is to unite the world by doing what we do best. Athletes should be athletes and politicians should do politics."

He originally made the "stick to sports" point last week, and the four-time NBA MVP responded that it's a suggestion he could never follow.

"I would never shut up about things that are wrong," James said Friday. "I preach about my people, and I preach about equality. Social injustice. Racism. Systematic voter suppression. Things that go on in our community."

On Thursday, Ibrahimovic, who shared a city with James for 2018 and 2019 while with MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy, first aired his views that James and other athletes should stay out of political debates. He told Discovery+ Sport:

"[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. 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 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."

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James disagreed, pointing toward the efforts the Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown and the NFL's Patrick Mahomes and Alvin Kamara have made to make a positive influence in their communities:

"It makes me feel proud to be a part of a generation where our voices are heard and guys are speaking from an educated mindset. But more importantly, when you speak from your heart, it rings bells even louder.

"And we've got a lot of guys speaking from the heart that didn't believe they had a voice at one point in time, or now they're coming into it and they see that they can have a voice and that their voice really matters. That makes me proud."

James was one of the dozens of Black athletes, musicians and actors who collaborated on the More Than A Vote campaign ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

He also founded the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, which is aimed at "students who are already falling behind and in danger of falling through the cracks."