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Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubles down on criticism of LeBron James

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has doubled down on his criticism of athletes who mix politics and sports.

The Milan striker was speaking on Tuesday at a press conference for the San Remo music festival, which he is co-hosting.

“Athletes unite the world, politics divide it,” he said. “Our role is to unite the world by doing what we do best. Athletes should be athletes and politicians should do politics.”

Last week Ibrahimovic singled out Los Angeles star LeBron James for bringing politics into the sporting arena.

“I like [James] a lot. He’s phenomenal, what he’s doing, but I don’t like when people with a status speak about politics. Do what you’re good at doing,” Ibrahimovic told Uefa and Discovery+ in Sweden.

“I play football because I’m the best playing at football, I don’t do politics. If I’d been a politician, I would be doing politics. This is the first mistake famous people do when they become famous: for me it is better to avoid certain topics and do what you’re good doing, otherwise you risk doing something wrongly.”

James, who been one of the NBA’s leading voices against racial injustice and police brutality, dismissed Ibrahimovic’s comments.

“I will never shut up about things that are wrong. I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social justice, racism, voter suppression – things that go on in our community,” he said last week.

“Because I was a part of my community at one point and saw the things that were going on, and I know what’s still going on because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that are going through the same thing and they need a voice.

“I’m their voice and I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that might be going on, not only in my community but in this country and around the world.”

James also pointed out that Ibrahimovic, who once said Muhammad Ali is his favourite athlete because of “what he did inside and outside the ring”, has spoken about politics in the past. “He’s the guy who said in Sweden, he was talking about the same things, because his last name wasn’t a [traditional Swedish] last name, he felt like there was some racism going on,” James said. “I speak from a very educated mind. I’m kind of the wrong guy to go at, because I do my homework.”

At Tuesday’s press conference Ibrahimovic also spoke about his recent clash with his former Manchester United teammate Romelu Lukaku. The pair confronted each other during a recent Milan derby.

“If he wants to come [to San Remo] he’s welcome,” Ibrahimovic said. “What happens on the pitch stays on the pitch.”

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