OAKLAND — LeBron James reacted with deep emotion to an incident in which a racial epithet was spray-painted on the gate to a mansion he owns in West Los Angeles, describing it as evidence that “racism will always be a part of the world, be a part of America.”
James made his remarks on NBA Finals Media Day at Oracle Arena before his defending champion Cavaliers take on the Warriors in Game 1 Thursday night. The first question to James in his news conference was about the incident.
After a sobering pause, James said, “As I sit here on the eve of one of the greatest events we have in sports, race and what’s going on comes again and on my family’s behalf. But if this is to shed a light and continue to keep the conversation going on my behalf, then, I’m OK with it. My family is safe, and that’s the most important thing.
“But it just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America. Hate in America, especially for African-Americans, is living every day, even though it’s concealed most of the time. People hide their faces and will say things about you, [but] when they see you, they smile in your face. It’s alive every single day.”
TMZ first reported the incident that the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to multiple media outlets. James was not at his 9,440-square foot mansion that he purchased in 2015 for $20.9 million in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles when the incident was discovered Wednesday at about 6:45 a.m. He was in the Bay Area with the Cavaliers.
The LAPD is investigating the incident as a hate crime and believes the act was captured on video surveillance. Property management painted over the slur, even before police investigators arrived.
James put the incident in historical context, recalling the famous case of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old who was lynched in 1955 in Mississippi. Till was from Chicago and was visiting relatives in Money, Miss. He was abducted and hanged four days after he was seen flirting with a white girl.
“I think back to Emmett Till’s mom, actually,” James said. “The reason she had an open casket is because she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as a hate crime and being black in America. So, no matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough.
“We’ve got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America. But my family is safe and that’s what is important.”
Although he admitted he didn’t feel the normal energy he would the day before the Finals, James vowed not to let it distract him from his job. He said the only drawback is that he can’t be with his two sons and small daughter at this time, but he added that his wife has things well in hand.
“At the end of the day, I’ll be focused on our game plan, focused on the game,” James said. “But I’m at a point in life where my priorities are in place and basketball comes second to my family. It actually comes after me continuing to be a role model to the youth, and what I do as far as with my foundation.
“I will be as focused as I can be on the job at hand [Thursday night], but this is a situation where it just puts me back in place of what actually is more important, and basketball is not the most important thing.”