President Trump’s private little war with athletes took an ugly turn the other day when he decided to attack LeBron James.
Understand that James is the best player in the NBA, a charter member of the 10 best NBA players of all time. He also happens to be an outstanding citizen, a man who never forgot his roots and put his money up to prove it.
Days after James opened a school for at-risk kids that he funded in his home town of Akron, Ohio and guaranteed scholarships to the University of Akron, he appeared on CNN to discuss the program.
All good, so far.
In the course of the interview with anchor Don Lemon, James suggested that things are not exactly swell in America these days, that the nation is being divided and the man doing the dividing lives in the White House.
Now we all know that President Trump does not take criticism warmly. So the counter-puncher-in chief lashed back, calling Lemon “the dumbest man on television’’ and then saying he “made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.’’
There, two for the price of one.
Then as a parting shot, the president added, “I like Mike,’’ apparently embracing Michael Jordan instead of James. To his credit, Jordan was having none of that, tweeting his admiration for James commitment to the community where he grew up.
There has been previous unpleasantness between James and the president so it might be a good idea not to invite them to your next cocktail party.
This was just the latest skirmish between Trump and athletes. He carried on an ugly exchange when Steph Curry and the NBA champion Golden State Warriors passed on the traditional White House invitation. James got involved in that one, too. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles also stayed home, dis-invited when several of the players said they would not show up.
The veins in the president’s neck bulged when he weighed in on NFL players’ protest during playing of the National Anthem, demanding that these infidels be fired. “They’re fired!!’’ he roared at a political rally crowd. It was like revisiting “The Apprentice,’’ where Trump liked to pick off contestants with that phrase every week.
The president has avoided any beefs with baseball, even passing on the first pitch tradition which goes back to William Howard Taft. He did invite the Stanley Cup champions to stop by the White House. It’s convenient, since the team plays in Washington.
So why does Trump get so irritable with athletes? Maybe it’s because like so many adult males, he failed at sports, never becoming a prospect at anything but real estate.
So he makes up for it by poking at athletes who offend him, either by their ability or their tendency to speak their minds. There is a way to settle this issue between James and the president, though.
Let them go at each other in a game of one-on-one. LeBron gets to use a basketball and Trump will be armed with his Twitter feed. Don Lemon can be the referee. Now this could really be interesting.