Donald Trump has called LeBron James racist for his tweet in response to the police killing of a 16-year-old Ohio teenager, which the former president described as ‘divisive, nasty, insulting and demeaning’.
Trump, who has frequently clashed with the Obama-supporting sports star, weighed in with a scathing statement on Thursday evening.
James, 36, tweeted on Wednesday a photo of Nicholas Reardon, the Columbus police officer who shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant in the city on Tuesday.
Ohio-born James, pictured on Thursday in Dallas, tweeted about Bryant’s killing then deleted it
James deleted this tweet on Wednesday, shortly after posting the picture of Nicholas Reardon
James captioned the image of the officer: “You’re next. #accountability.”
His tweet was an echo of his response the day before to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. When Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, James tweeted: ‘Accountability.’
The sporting superstar, however, deleted his tweet about Bryant’s death soon after he posted it.
‘LeBron James should focus on basketball rather than presiding over the destruction of the NBA, which has just recorded the lowest television RATINGS, by far, in the long and distinguished history of the League,’ said Trump on Thursday.
‘His RACIST rants are divisive, nasty, insulting and demeaning.
‘He may be a great basketball player but he is doing nothing to bring our Country together!’
Donald Trump issued a statement from his Florida estate on Thursday condemning James
James’ tweet sparked a backlash online.
Meghan McCain, co-host of The View, joined in the criticism of the basketball star on Thursday, after ex-NFL player turned Army Ranger Jake Bequette hit out at James earlier that morning for ‘politicizing’ sport.
McCain said on The View that, while she agrees that people of color are treated differently by law enforcement in America, James’ social media post was fueling more violence.
‘No one without two brain cells in their head can understand that police tend to treat African-Americans and people of color a different way than they do white people,’ she said.
‘It’s just a fact we’re all trying to reconcile and come to terms with.
‘But when you have people like LeBron James posting pictures of this police officer before this has been adjudicated and litigated, you’re also putting that police officer’s life in danger. And I would like killing to stop in this country and violence to stop.’
McCain added that Bryant’s death ‘will be adjudicated in court’ adding that ‘the way I was raised is to respect authority.’
‘The way I was raised is to respect authority, to respect police officers, to respect law enforcement. I have a lot of friends who are in the military and who are also police officers,’ McCain said.
Arkansas Sen Tom Cotton was one of the first to call James out, tweeting: ‘Lebron James is inciting violence against an Ohio police officer. This is disgraceful and dangerous. Is the NBA okay with this? Is Twitter?’
Ohio Representative Mike Loychik said: ‘People like LeBron James and his friends on the left are driving good people away from careers in law enforcement. This is the exact OPPOSITE of how to improve policing.’
Meghan McCain has slammed LeBron James for allegedly endangering the life of the cop who shot dead Ma’Khia Bryant when he tweeted ‘you’re next’ after Derek Chauvin’s conviction
James, whose hometown of Akron, Ohio, is about 125 miles northeast from Columbus, the state capital, frequently weighs in on social issues.
He explained later on Wednesday to his 49.6 million followers why he deleted the tweet, saying it was being used ‘to create more hate’.
‘ANGER does any of us any good and that includes myself! Gathering all the facts and educating does though! My anger still is here for what happened that lil girl. My sympathy for her family and may justice prevail!’ he said.
‘I’m so damn tired of seeing Black people killed by police. 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.’
Officials with the Columbus Division of Police had released initial footage of the shooting Tuesday night just hours after it happened, which was a departure from protocol as the force faces immense scrutiny from the public following a series of recent high-profile police killings that have led to clashes.
‘The fact that I see what I saw on that video is not how I know my Ma’Khia,’ said her grandmother, Debra Wilcox.
She told The Associated Press on Wednesday: ‘I don’t know what happened there unless she was fearful for her life.’
Paula Bryant, Ma’Khia’s mother, has said she wants answers in her daughter’s killing
The incident has caused an outcry in the community and nationwide as Bryant’s killing is the second high-profile fatal shooting of a teenager by police in the last month. Body camera footage released last week showed an officer shoot and kill 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago.
‘It’s a tragedy. There’s no other way to say it. It’s a 16-year-old. I’m a father,’ said Michael Woods, interim Columbus Police Chief.
‘Her family is grieving. Regardless of the circumstances associated with this, a 16-year-old lost her life yesterday.’
He added: ‘I sure as hell wish it wouldn’t have happened.’
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the Columbus shooting ‘tragic’ and said President Joe Biden has been briefed on it.
‘She was a child. We’re thinking of her friends and family and the communities that are hurting and grieving her loss,’ Psaki said in a statement.
Protesters in Columbus took to the streets on Wednesday to demand justice for Ma’Khia
The 10-second body camera clip begins with the officer, identified Wednesday as Nicholas Reardon, getting out of his car at a house where police had been dispatched after someone had called 911 saying they were being physically threatened, Woods said.
It remains unclear who called the police.
A spokesperson for the Air National Guard in Ohio confirmed to DailyMail.com that Reardon is a Staff Sergeant assigned to the 121st Security Forces Squadron and has served with the National Guard since 2015.
His alma mater’s Twitter account said he earned the expert marksman badge for the M4A1 Carbine fully automatic assault rifle used by the military.
Reardon, who was hired by the force in December 2019, is seen taking a few steps toward a group of people in the driveway when Bryant starts swinging a knife wildly at another girl or woman, who falls backward.
The officer shouts several times to get down.
Bryant then charges at another girl or woman, who is pinned against a car.
From a few feet away, with people on either side of him, the officer fires four shots, and Bryant slumps to the ground. A black-handled blade similar to a kitchen knife or steak knife lies on the sidewalk next to her.
Officer Nicholas Reardon is seen standing on the scene after shooting and killing Bryant. He has been on the force since December 2019
Authorities said they had been responding to an initial stabbing call at around 4.30pm. The shots fire call was made just 15 minutes later
A man immediately yells at the officer: ‘You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!’
The officer responds: ‘She had a knife. She just went at her.’
The officer has been taken off patrolling the streets for the time being.
Bryant was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. Police did not say if anyone else was injured.
In the moments after the shooting, people living or visiting the street filmed as police roped off the area with yellow tape in front of the house where the shooting took place.
A neighbor’s video shows an officer performing CPR on the teenager while a man can be heard yelling: ‘You all just jumped out of the (expletive) car and shot her!’
Ma’Khia Bryant’s death has sparked an investigation by Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation
People listen as friends of Ma’Khia Bryant speak about her at a community vigil, on Wednesday, at Douglas Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio
Neighbors stood in open doorways filming and behind cars shaking their heads, eyewitness footage showed.
Woods said state law allows police to use deadly force to protect themselves or others, and investigators will determine whether this shooting was such an instance.
Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now reviewing the killing following a recent agreement with the city.
The shooting happened about 25 minutes before a judge read the verdict convicting former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin of murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.
It also took place less than five miles from where the funeral for Andre Hill, who was killed by another Columbus police officer in December, was held earlier this year.
The officer in Hill’s case, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran of the force, is now facing trial for murder, with the next hearing scheduled for April 28.
Less than three weeks before Hill was killed, a Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy fatally shot 23-year-old Casey Goodson Jr. in Columbus. The case remains under federal investigation.
Last week, Columbus police shot and killed a man who was in a hospital emergency room with a gun on him. Officials are continuing an investigation into that shooting.
Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, said on Wednesday that he watched the footage of Bryant’s killing and called it a ‘horrible tragedy.’
He added that while the public has the video evidence, ‘we need to let the investigation play out.’