As one of the NBA’s most influential and politically active players, LeBron James often uses his shoes as a nominal communication medium to express himself. For Sunday’s match-up against the Washington Wizards in the nation’s capital, James opted to wear a special pair of LeBron 15 signature shoes, one white on his left foot and a black sneaker on his other foot. Both shoes also featured the word EQUALITY inscribed on the back in gold stitching.
Unlike Kyrie Irving’s coded support of conspiracy theories in the Kyrie 4s, it didn’t take a cryptographer to decipher the intent of James’ shoes because he was forthright after the Cavs win about the statement he was making with his footwear.
“We all know where we are right now, and we know who is at the helm here,” James said when asked about his choice of footwear after the Cavaliers’ 106-99 win . “Us as Americans, no matter the skin color, no matter the race, no matter who you are, I think we all have to understand that having equal rights and being able to stand for something and speak for something and keeping the conversation going [is important].
“Obviously, I’ve been very outspoken and well-spoken about the situation that’s going on at the helm here, and we’re not going to let one person dictate us, us as Americans, how beautiful and how powerful we are as a people. Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men and women, black or white or Hispanic. It doesn’t matter your race, whatever the case may be, this is a beautiful country, and we’re never going to let one person dictate how beautiful and how powerful we are.”
In case it wasn’t apparent through context clues, James’ jab was aimed at President Donald Trump. James has previously pulled no punches in addressing his immense dissatisfaction with Trump. In September, he referred to Trump as a “bum” and blasted him for failing to properly utilize the pulpit of the presidency.
James’ footwear statement wasn’t as powerful as Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney singing “Ebony and Ivory.” However, it’s only the most recent example of James eloquently repudiating the president. James’ refusal to stay at the SoHo Trump Hotel was also a catalyst that led to the company that owns the lower Manhattan hotel ending its branding deal with the Trump brand.
In October, James also wore black LeBron 15 EQUALITY PEs (“player exclusives”) before the Cavaliers’ season-opener against Boston. At the time, James took issue with Trump’s penchant for haranguing black athletes through social media or in rallies, as well as his equivocation of the violence in Charlottesville, especially in contrast to Trump calling NFL players “sons of bitches.”
Nike launched its EQUALITY campaign earlier this year to champion causes that reflect the company’s values, while James’ footwear was his way of following through on a promise he made in October to use his platform as a megaphone for issues such as racial injustice.
“I just wanted to keep the conversation going,” James told ESPN in October after the season opener vs. the Celtics. “We know what we’re going through. We know what we went through as a nation, as a world. So I had an opportunity to use a platform for the greater good and keep the conversation going. Why not?”
Ultimately, James wound up removing his LeBron 15s after going 4-for-12 through the first two frames. In the second half, James shot a nearly identical 4-of-11 from the field, en route to his third straight triple-double.
“I didn’t play well in the first half, and I’m very superstitious, so I took them off,” James explained after his triple-double against the Wizards. “I didn’t play well in the second half, either, so if there was a third half, I would have took those off.”
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