He typically avoids flagrant fouls, but LeBron James faced calls to apologize Thursday for targeting an officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding Black teenager amid a growing backlash over the anti-police narrative.
The NBA superstar posted and then quickly deleted a tweet showing a photo of the officer at the scene in Columbus, Ohio, below the caption “YOU’RE NEXT” with an hourglass emoji, prompting Sen. Tom Cotton. Arkansas Republican, to accuse the player of “inciting violence.”
“What LeBron James did is especially appalling,” Mr. Cotton said on Fox News. “He didn’t just jump to conclusions and say, ‘This officer committed cold-blooded murder.’ He posted the officer’s photograph, and he said, ‘You’re next.’ What did he expect to happen?” Mr. Cotton continued: “He took it down because he realized just how wrong it was, but he owes this officer an apology.”
Additional video footage released Thursday by a neighbor and the Columbus Division of Police confirmed what the police bodycam video showed: That 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant had backed another Black teenage girl against a car as she brandished a knife when she was shot and killed.
Officer Nicholas Reardon, who reportedly joined the force in December 2019 after serving in the military, was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an independent probe being conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tweeted that “LeBron James needs to apologize to the Ohio cop he smeared.” At the same time, Clay Travis of the sports commentary podcast Outkick the Coverage said, “LeBron should apologize to every police officer in America.”
No mea culpa was forthcoming Thursday, but Mr. James did offer an explanation for why he posted and then took down the tweet from his account, which has 49.6 million followers, more than President Biden’s 10.2 million.
“I’m so damn tired of seeing Black people killed by police,” he tweeted. “I took the tweet down because it’s 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.”
As one of the most famous professional athletes in the world, Mr. James drew the lion’s share of attention, but he was hardly the only public figure to denounce police over the shooting, despite video evidence indicating that another girl was in imminent danger.
Former Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted that “a police officer immediately decided to shoot her multiple times to break up a knife fight,” even though the other girl was unarmed. At the same time, “The View” host Joy Behar said the officer should have fired in the air “as a warning.”