President Donald Trump criticized LeBron James on Friday, insulting the NBA star’s intelligence after James told CNN anchor Don Lemon that he thought the president was trying to divide the country.
“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!” Trump wrote on Twitter late Friday, an apparent reference to Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan.
However, the retired NBA star threw his support behind James.
“I support L.J.,” Jordan told NBC News through his spokesperson. “He’s doing an amazing job for his community.”
Asked what he would say to Trump if he was sat across from him, James to CNN earlier this week: “I would never sit across from him.” He said he would be open to meeting with former President Barack Obama, however.
ames also denied having any political aspirations of his own, until Trump was mentioned as a possible opponent
“If someone tried to recruit a LeBron to run for president, they said, ‘Listen, they’ve got no one, if you don’t run, Trump’s going to win,’ would you run?” Lemon asked.
“Well, in that case, I may,” James responded.
In the interview, which took place after James announced he was creating an elementary school to support at-risk children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, the NBA star also accused the president of trying to use sport to divide America.
“We’re in a position right now in America, more importantly, where this race thing has taken over because I believe our president is kinda trying to divide us,” he said. “What I’ve noticed over the last few months is that he’s kind of used sports to kind of divide us.”
Trump has criticized NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the U.S. The president said last month that players should be suspended for a game for kneeling once and suspended for the rest of the season with no pay if they kneel for a second time.
Last September, the president said he felt “ashamed” by “disgraceful” NFL-wide protests. He also said in May that athletes who kneel “maybe shouldn’t be in the country.”
Trump’s tweet came hours before he was due to hold an election rally in Ohio, James’ home state, ahead of a special congressional election on Tuesday — the last major partisan electoral test before the November midterms.
Will be going to Ohio tonight to campaign for Troy Balderson for the big Congressional Special Election on Tuesday. Early voting is on. Troy is strong on Crime, the Border & loves our Military, Vets & 2nd Amendment. His opponent is a puppet of Nancy Pelosi/high taxes.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2018
This week’s war of words was not the first time James and Trump have exchanged fire.
Last September, James called the president a “bum” after Trump withdrew his invitation for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors to visit the White House.
Trump’s decision to pull the traditional visit came after Warriors star Stephen Curry made it clear he thought the team should not attend.
— Don Lemon (@donlemon) August 4, 2018
“Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!” James tweeted in response.
Trump has also repeatedly criticized Lemon, prompting CNN to issue a statement last year accusing the president of using social media to bully others.