Zlatan Ibrahimovic really has got it all wrong by telling NBA icon LeBron James to ‘stay out’ of politics and focus solely on his sport.
Instead, he should be praising James for using his powerful voice to try and influence positive change in society, and using his own voice and enormous platform in a positive way.
What’s more, Ibrahimovic, as the son Yugoslav immigrants to Sweden, actually complained as recently as 2018 about suffering from ‘undercover racism’ and discrimination in his homeland. He, above most, should be standing up and shouting from the rooftops to ensure others don’t need to suffer the same things he has by helping to create a kinder, fairer and more just world.
The vast majority of people cannot be heard. Ibrahimovic is one of the few who has a voice that is big enough to be able and it should be his duty to use it like James.
If he abides by his philosophy of sticking to football, the AC Milan striker actively isn’t helping struggling people who might be just like himself, but unable to speak up for themselves.
His stance when asked in an interview about how James has become a leading voice in the United States against things like racism and police brutality, as well as his actions to encourage disenfranchised voters in largely black communities to have their say in last year’s presidential election, is poor.
“Do the category you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football. I don’t do politics. If I was a politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people [make] when they become famous and get to a certain status. Stay out of it,” Ibrahimovic told Discovery+.
“Just do what you are best at because it doesn’t look good.”
James responded to those comments following Friday nights LA Lakers game and insisted he will ‘never shut up’ as long as things that are wrong in society are still happening.
“I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social injustice, racism, systemic voter suppression and things that go on in our community. I was a part of my community, seeing the things that were going on and still going on,” he said.
“I have a group of 300+ kids at my school that are going through the same thing – they need a voice and I’m their voice. I continue to use my platform to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community, but around the country and around the world.
“There is no way that I will ever just stick to sports because I understand how powerful my voice is. [Ibrahimovic] can ask Renee Montgomery [what would have happened] if I had shut up and just dribbled, seeing that beautiful, black woman be a part of an ownership group now with the Atlanta Dream [in the WNBA].
“It’s funny what he said when he was the same guy in 2018 back in Sweden talking about the same things, because his name wasn’t a certain last name and he felt like there was some racism going on when he was out on the pitch.
“I speak from a very educated mind and I’m the wrong guy to go at because I do my homework.”
One of Ibrahimovic’s own former teammates in Marcus Rashford is a perfect example of the good that a high profile sports star can do for society, having successfully lobbied the UK government into action against ongoing child food poverty in the country.
Rashford himself has first hand experience of what it is like to be hungry as a child in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and used the voice that he has built as one of the Premier League’s best footballers to force positive change. He no plans to stop either and will continue to campaign and fight on behalf of those who cannot do it themselves until long lasting change happens.
At the same time, Rashford is still very much doing the business on the pitch and is well on course to reach the 20-goal milestone for the second season in a row for an improving Manchester United.
Being an elite sportsperson in this climate is about far more than just the sport. Whether those privileged enough to be in that position like it or not, it comes with vast social responsibility and it is incredibly disappointing that Ibrahimovic, of all people, cannot see that.