LeBron James has won four NBA championships and Most Valuable Player Awards each against the best basketball competition on Earth, and conservatives can’t even dunk on Twitter.
After the Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted about the Columbus police officer who shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant Tuesday—just minutes before the Derek Chauvin verdict was issued—conservatives once again discovered their sense of outrage that a celebrity was wading into politics.
James, who was born and raised in Akron and helped lead last year’s walkouts following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, posted a picture of Nicholas Reardon, the Columbus cop who shot and killed Bryant Tuesday as she allegedly fought with another child at the foster home where she lived. Bryant was holding a knife; Reardon is a military-trained expert marksman, the Daily Beast reported Wednesday.
James posted a picture of Reardon and added the message “YOU’RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY,” a reference to Chauvin’s conviction.
He later deleted the tweet and clarified his thoughts. “I’m so damn tired of seeing Black people killed by police,” he said. I took the tweet down because its being used to create more hate -This isn’t about one officer. it’s about the entire system and they always use our words to create more racism. I am so desperate for more ACCOUNTABILITY[.]”
But conservatives predictably seized on James’ comments as offensive, with some even going so far as to say that he was calling for violence against Reardon. “Lebron James is inciting violence against an Ohio police officer,” Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said. “This is disgraceful and dangerous.”
It’s worth noting here that Cotton more directly blamed LeBron James for hypothetical violence against a cop in a tweet calling for “accountability” than he did former President Donald Trump for actual violence that took place at the Capitol January 6, when Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell” against the election results.
“It’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence,” Cotton said in a statement January 6, saving his harshest words for “senators and representatives who fanned the flames by encouraging the president.”
Ted Cruz, who was one of those senators Cotton referred to, also jumped into the LeBron pile-on. "The left consistently goes after, attacks and demonizes police officers,” he said in an appearance on Fox News. “Their immediate reaction, whenever there is an incident, is that police officers are in the wrong.”
"And in this instance, 'you're next' could certainly be interpreted by some, even, as a call for violence,” he said. Cruz also referred to the 16-year-old Bryant as a “woman who was wielding a knife.”
Rep. Lauren Boebert, accused by her own colleagues of supporting the Capitol riot and even putting her own colleagues in danger—accusations she’s denied—tweeted Thursday that James is essentially a state actor of the Chinese government. “Lebron James truly has a lot of nerve targeting a police officer for doing his job,” she said. “I’m not sure what China has on him, but his constant push for division in this country is obscene.”
The National Fraternal Order of Police jumped in, demanding James “educate himself” before giving their own interpretation of the shooting.
There was perhaps no wilder take on James’ tweet, however, than the one from Jason Whitlock, a conservative former ESPN personality, apparently thought James’ comments were indicative of his fierce commitment to communism, somehow.
“LeBron James, like other elites, is using racial division as a distraction as elites reshape America to be more like communist China,” Whitlock tweeted. “Elites prefer communism.”
Whitlock’s tenuous understanding of communism drew criticism from a rather unlikely source.
“Ah yes, Lebron [sic] the guy who has made hundreds of millions thanks to capitalism is really going to push hard for communism!” the Libertarian Party of Texas tweeted at Whitlock. “Jeesh, not everything is a communist threat!”