The news conference was supposed to be about the start of the NBA finals Thursday — but the first question to Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James wasn't about how he'll deal with the Warriors' Draymond Green. It was about how he's dealing with racist graffiti at his house in Los Angeles.
"No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, you know being black in America is tough," James said. "And we got a long way to go, for us as a society and for us as African-Americans, until we feel equal in America."
As James' Cavaliers were preparing to play the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, the Los Angeles Police Department received a call "reporting the N-word had been spray-painted on James' private gate," NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
Racism, James said, "will always be a part of the world, a part of America."
The house isn't James' main residence, and he could have referred questions about the vandalism to police, to keep his focus on winning another NBA title. Instead, the Cavaliers star addressed the crime's social implications.
"Hate in America, especially for African-Americans, is living every day," James said, "and even though it's concealed most of the time, even though people hide their faces and ... when they see you they smile in your face, it's alive every single day."
Referring to an infamous hate crime, James spoke about the decision by Emmett Till's mother to hold an open-casket funeral so there would be witnesses to the racist brutality her son suffered in 1955.
The most unfortunate aspect of his situation, James said later, was that he couldn't be with his children to talk about it with them.
"I can't be home to see my boys right now," James said. "My little girl is too young to actually understand it right now, but I can't sit in front of my boys right now, and I won't be home until next week. So this is kind of killing me inside right now."
James said his wife and mother would speak to the children about the incident after school, and that he planned to connect via FaceTime.
While saying his two sons, ages 9 and 12, love life and have open minds, James added, "at the end of the day, they're going to have to walk their own path. And hopefully I give them enough life skills throughout their journey where, when they're ready to fly, they can fly on their own."
After noting that the vandalism had intruded on "one of the greatest sporting events that we have," James said that if the incident keeps the conversation about racism alive, "then I'm OK with it."
"My family is safe," he said. "At the end of the day they're safe, and that's the most important."