Los Angeles (Reuters) - Lakers star LeBron James blamed this week's mob violence at the US Capitol on President Donald Trump and questioned what would have happened had the rioters been black.
"We live in two Americas," James said after Thursday night's home loss to the San Antonio Spurs, one day after the unrest in the nation's capital.
"And that was a prime example of that yesterday, and if you don't understand that or don't see that after seeing what you saw yesterday, then you really need to take a step back - not even just one step, but maybe four or five, or even 10 steps backwards and ask yourself how do you want your kids, or how do you want your grandkids, or how do we want America to be viewed as? Do we want to live in this beautiful country?"
James blamed Trump for lighting the spark for Wednesday's breach of the Capitol, which occurred during the official certification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College vote count and ultimately resulted in the deaths of five people.
"The events that took place yesterday was a direct correlation of the president that's in the seat right now - of his actions, his beliefs, his wishes," James said. "He cares about nobody besides himself. Nobody.
Absolutely nobody. He doesn't care about this country. He doesn't care about his family. He doesn't care about anybody besides himself." Dressed in a black shirt with "Do You Understand Now?" in block letters, James said he watched the news footage of the pro-Trump crowd being met by largely passive police resistance and wondered how he and his family might have been treated in that situation.
"If those were my kind storming the Capitol, what would have been the outcome?
And I think we all know," James said. "There's no ifs, ands or buts - we already know what would've happened to my kind if anyone would have even got close to the Capitol, let alone storm inside the offices, inside the hallways."
Lakers teammate Anthony Davis called it a "double standard."
"On the other side, an entire group runs into the nation's Capitol and get escorted out the front door like everything is OK," Davis said.
"And if I'm not mistaken - well, I'm not mistaken - they did take things, and when the Black Lives Matter protested it was, 'Once the looting starts, the shooting starts.' And to my knowledge, if you take something, you're looting. And in that case, for them, they got escorted out the front door. And it's just a slap in the face to us. It feels like we're going backwards. We thought we were seeing change and then this happens."
As a sign of unity, Lakers and Spurs players locked arms at center court during the national anthem before Thursday night's game.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said he applauds James as a leading voice on social issues for the NBA and beyond. Popovich said James isn't on the level of Muhammad Ali, because no athlete can be.
"But in that same genre, I am so proud of this guy and so pleased for him that from the time he came in (to the NBA) as a teenager, to see his development now - basketball? Sure, fine," Popovich said.
"But as a human being, as a citizen, as someone who looks at the social issues of our time and is willing to speak out about them, he doesn't do it with hate."