LeBron James, 36, of the United States and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 39, of Sweden are both outstanding and legendary in their respective sports. What makes them different is their stand when it comes to athletes’ involvement in politics and activism.
The African-American professional basketball player has been playing for the Los Angeles Lakers since 2018. The Swedish professional footballer has been playing for the Associazione Calcio Milan since 2020.
On February 25, 2021, Ibrahimovic was interviewed for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) for Discovery+ in Sweden. He described James as an athlete who is phenomenal at what he is doing.
“I don’t like when people have some kind of status, they go and do politics at the same time,” ESPN quoted Ibrahimovic as saying. “Do what you’re good at. Do the category you do.”
“I play football because I’m the best at playing football,” Ibrahimov continued. “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,” the AC Milan star added. “Stay out of it. Just do what you do best because it doesn’t look good.”
None of what Ibrahimovic just said will stop James from using his celebrity to discuss social issues. The basketball star responded to the footballer’s criticism on February 26, 2021 after the Los Angeles Lakers’ win against the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I will never shut up about things that are wrong,” CNN quoted James as saying. “I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social justice, racism, voter suppression (and other) things that go on in our community.”
Currently, James has 49.2 million Twitter followers and 80.1 million Instagram followers. In addition, his official Facebook page has 25 million followers.
“I’ll use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that’s going on around this country and around the world,” James said. “There’s no way I would ever just stick to sports because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice is.”
James finds it ironic that Ibrahimovic once complained about racism in Sweden. In 2018, the latter complained about being treated differently by the media because his last name is not traditional like those of other footballers.